My father was in the lumber business. Some of my earliest and most precious memories were of going to work with my father. It was obvious to me what business my father was in. He was in the lumber business. Lumber was everywhere. Lumber was stacked, piled, stored. Lumber was always being sorted, graded, counted, loaded, bought and sold. The smell of Ponderosa Pine filled the air. Some children had no idea what their fathers really “did”. I knew. If you had walked into that “place of business” fifty-two years ago at Bohack Terminal, it was obvious, (even to a five year old) what kind of business my father was in. You didn’t need to ask.
What business is the church in? The fact that we have to ask is in itself an indication that business is not what it used to be. The Jewish priests in 30 AD went to work every day and yet they did not realize that they were almost bankrupt and about to be “out of business.” When just a lad, Jesus visited His Father’s work place. When Mary and Joseph found Him there and scolded Him, He said, “Did you not know that, I must be about my Father’s business?” What business was that? It certainly was not religion, or what Christians today call “church work.”
There is a fast food restaurant across the street from our chapel. If you go in there you can expect to find chicken. You can get it fried (Crispy or Original) or roasted. You can get it in pieces, or on plates, or in buckets. You would be astonished, if upon entering, you were told, “we don’t have any chicken.” No one goes there looking for tires or mufflers, china or chain saws. Only an idiot would go there looking for a pair of shoes.
When a local church has to ask “what business are we in?” that church is in trouble. Some companies are all about transportation like Boeing or American Airlines and Amtrak. Some businesses are about communication, like AT&T, Bell South, and Verizon (you know, “can you hear me now?”). What’s our business? Jesus said “I must be about my Father’s business.” What did He mean by that?
If you into a Taco Bell, you can expect to find Taco Bells. Go into a shoe store and you are not surprised to find shoes. You stop at a gas station for ( wait, don’t tell me, let me guess) gas. What business is the church in? We are in the love business.
In that lumberyard, years ago, I saw lumber everywhere. When I went into that Bible Believing Church years ago, I knew love when I saw it. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,” said Jesus. The Bible says that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” It does not say He was “so wise,” or “so powerful,” or “so holy” (and He is all these things and more), but God is in the love business. When a church runs out of love, it is “out of business.” A restaurant may have plenty of straws and napkins, but if it has no food, forget it. Oh, a church may talk all it wants about how “holy” it is, or how “separated” it is. It may boast that it is a “care-taker” of the truth, but Paul said “if I have not love, I am nothing.”
Now, I am not talking about “knock off” cheap imitation love that is prevalent today. The world does not need any more of that. I am talking about something more than brotherly love, that’s good if you can find it, or motherly love (the kind what makes you wash behind your ears). I am not talking about lover love either (the kind that mesmerizes people, puts stars in their eyes and funny little smiles on their faces). I am talking about God love. That is the business we are in. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…..”
The last we heard from the church at Ephesus, it was having problems with its love life. It lost its first love. That is the last we ever hear of it. It no longer exists. They went out of business. John’s epistle is clear. We love God because He first loved us. “God is Love” (1Jn. 4:8). Let there be no doubt. If anyone has doubts, let him go to Calvary and stand at the foot of the cross. Let him look at how much God loves. If a man understands what is happening at the cross (the place where justice and mercy meet), he too will conclude, “God is love.” We love God because God loved us. Oh yes, Jesus is the Truth, He is holy, He is timeless and He is eternal, and the world is not large enough to contain or comprehend in totality who and what He is. But make no mistake, He is Love.
“Oh” someone says, “we are in the Faith business,” or the “spiritual food business,” or in the “Soul-saving and repair business.” Yes, this is all part of it, these are all a parts of love. One day there will be no need for faith, but there will always be love. There will be no need for hope, but there will be love in heaven. One day you will no longer have your Concordance and Bible Dictionary. One day, when everything else is shed like the chaff on the threshing floor, there will still be love. “Faith, Hope, Love,” said Paul, “but the greatest of these is love.” (1Cor. 13:13)
Religion always misses the mark. Jews love Jews. Arabs love Arabs. Baptists love Baptists and Catholics love Catholics. People say, we love our pastor, or we love our Pope, or we love our church, often that is nothing more than loving self. The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. Real love loves enough to tell someone he is wrong. Love cares enough to warm people when they are cold. Love cares enough to warn people that there is an awful place called Hell, and that we don’t want them to go there. Real love is conclusive, and inclusive, and exclusive. Like the black-art books burned at early Ephesus, Love gets rid of those little black telephone books with the phone numbers of old lovers once it has found the true. Love also burns the little black books filled with all the black marks and grudges we are holding against people. (1Jn. 4:20). Real love loves.
My earthly father and mother are gone. I remember how my father loved hard work. I remember standing all alone with him as he wept by my mother's grave. He loved her to the end. I miss them both. I miss their love. My heavenly Father (Praise His Name) still lives and lives forever. As long as He lives we are in business. Today and tomorrow I will go to work with Him.
That’s it! We are in the God Love business. We love what God loves. We love light rather than darkness. We love the brethren. We love God’s Word. We love our enemies. It would do every church good to ask once in a while, “How’s Business?”