What if you only had ten minutes to show a group of people on a remote island everything they needed to know in order to grow into a vibrant Christian community, and you could only give them four Bible verses (they have no Bibles)? What would you share with them? To keep it simple, we’ll assume these islanders have heard about Jesus and a few popular Bible stories.
Would you tell them they’re sinners in need of a savior? Remember, only four verses are allowed. The four spiritual laws? Then what? Would you give them Paul’s pastoral verses? Teach them your version of eschatology?
Here’s what I would share. And I believe, if they followed it, I could reasonably expect to come back 2o years later and find a strong authentic Christian community, filled with believers living out a vibrant faith in Christ.
First, here are the four verses I would leave with them. I will explain why I’m going with these verses afterward:
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16 *)
19 We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 *)
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9 *)
23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:23 *)
You’ll notice all four verses are from John. His writing was the latest and arguably the most advanced in the New Testament. But here’s why I chose them:
The first verse (1 John 3:16) defines what love is. It’s self-giving, other-centered. It looks like Calvary. It also defines our value. We have unsurpassable worth because God gave Himself for us. And because He loves us this way, we should love others the same way.
The second verse (1 John 4:19) explains where this love comes from. I would stress that we learn to love by learning how to be loved by God. I would spend most of my ten minutes showing them how to open their hearts to God (remember my faucet illustration in my last post), which is as easy as breathing!
The third verse (John 15:9) tells us we’re to sustain our life in this love. Since God loves us like God loves God, we live every moment of every day in the knowledge of His affection toward us, agreeing with His appraisal of our infinite worth (so that we can love others as ourselves). We “remain” in this paradigm by cultivating an awareness of His presence, trusting that everything we need will be found in and through Him.
The fourth verse (John 17:23) tells us about living in community (common-unity), which causes Kingdom growth and advancement. I would explain to my island protégés that we are in the same relationship Jesus has with the Father and Holy Spirit. And from this place, we will find each other. And as we grow in other-centered love for one another, those (on the island) on the outside will see agape in community and want the same for themselves. Thus, we are ever advancing His kingdom on the earth (island).
The initial reaction to my message, like in the New Testament, would likely be that some would faithfully follow my instructions, others would resist (at least, initially). The faithful followers would become the “early church,” if you will. The resistors would be those on the outside of “community.”
These resistors would never be shamed into joining this faith community; they would be compelled by love (2 Cor.5:14-15), being convinced of God’s Kingdom as they see it demonstrated in this “New Jerusalem” of other-centered love (John 13:35). And her gates will never be shut to any thirsty soul (see Rev.21:25; 22:17).
You might ask, what about being “born again?” Saved by grace through faith? Adams’ fall, or the verses about our sin nature? Shouldn’t we threaten them with hellfire, warn of false prophets, the antichrist, or anything else they should be afraid of?
First, by opening their heart to Christ, they are saved (believing is a heart issue – Rom.10:10).
Second, perfect love casts out fear, and if I teach them how to be perfectly loved by God, and love each other with His love, I will have given them everything there is to know about Scripture and following Jesus.
Finally, everything else I could teach is only a means to this greater end: God’s eternal purpose, which is to bring us together in Christ, into the dynamic flow of fellowship and love in the Trinitarian Life (Eph.3:9-12).
And remember, we only have ten minutes!
Here’s how Jesus summed up everything:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt.22:37-40 *)
How about you? How would you use your ten minutes? Remember, you can only give them four (single) verses. I would love to hear your comments. 🙂