Loving Well in a Post-Christian World

A friend of ours from the UK, Pete, was recently in town to share with our church about his church-planting work in Manchester, England. Pete told us about the challenges he faces living in and ministering to a post-Christian culture. Post-Christianity is a reality where Christianity is no longer the dominant civil religion of a society, and its people have gradually assumed secular values, culture, and worldviews. He shared the encouragement that this culture allows him to minister to people who have no concept of Christianity—whether positive or negative, genuine or hypocritical.

With this reality as the premise of his discussion, I asked him how he would advise us considering America’s drift to a similar fate. Without even thinking, he said, “Love each other radically.” I was surprised by his answer, fully thinking he would suggest that churches should ensure Christians know the truth of Scripture, read the Bible more, become students of doctrine, evangelize more, confess sin regularly, or practice other disciplines focused on knowing God.

I asked him how he would advise us considering America’s drift to a similar fate.

He said, “Don’t get me wrong, all those things are essential, and if they were sincerely taking place, then your love for one another would be so attractive that the world would take notice and regularly be asking your church members to give a defense for the hope that lies within them (1 Peter 3:15).” Could it be that the display we are putting out to our co-workers, fellow students, and in our homes is not the kind of love Jesus talked about when He said, “Everyone will know you are My disciples if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)?

The reality of a radical love for each other is rooted in a deep love for the Lord. Those of us who have been in the Christian camp for many years have to ask ourselves if we are being transformed by Jesus and if the beautiful result of that transformation is not simply more knowledge about God but an overflowing spring of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in every part of our lives.

The reality of a radical love for each other is rooted in a deep love for the Lord.

Maybe this journey can start by asking if God really exists. Before you answer that question too quickly, take some time and sincerely examine the question by recalling the times and moments when you frankly knew God existed in your life. Don’t look at it from a knowledge standpoint but from a moment when you didn’t fear in the face of uncertainty, didn’t sin in the face of temptation, didn’t gossip when out of earshot, weren’t anxious when the unexpected call came, went out of your way to make a meal, mowed a yard, picked someone up, made a delivery, experienced heartbreak over a lost soul, or gave without any expectation of receiving.

Please don’t see this list as judgmental, a measuring stick to your Christian witness, or a barometer of how you compare to someone else. The list is a mirror that we can hold up to ourselves as an indication of whether we are loving radically. Some surveys reveal that our “Christian” nation is only about 20% Christian (Evangelical), and that number has been falling steadily. On the surface this may seem a discouraging reality, but it might actually make the salt and light that believers are to possess a bit tastier and brighter.

The first Christian church we read about in the Book of Acts began its ministry in a pre-Christian culture. It grew exponentially against all odds—with small numbers, no experience, and facing unimaginable persecution. There was something so attractive that the world noticed and wanted what they had. They would discover Jesus in this church because the people believed He existed, and His Spirit so transformed them that they had a contagious genuine love for one another. This is the precise love that Jesus details in John’s Gospel.

There was something so attractive that the world noticed and wanted what they had.

I have always been accused of being a glass-half-full guy. The experts say the United States is following Europe in this post-Christian destiny. But perhaps a more positive way to look at this plight is to consider that we might be in a pre-Christian environment, and the culture is looking for hope because every man-made purpose they have chosen or pursued has let them down and has not revealed a sincere love. I believe that God’s plan to use His disciples to expose a genuine, radical love for one another has not changed.

So how do we love well? The answer is simple yet complicated: we love God well. I can’t tell you exactly step by step what to do to love God well, but a love for others will only be authentic if we sincerely love the Lord. That means pursuing Him openly, practicing His ways, submitting to Him, confessing to Him, talking to Him, and loving Him sincerely. His first instruction to the disciples was simple, “Follow Me.” The complicated part is following Him exclusively, forsaking everything else.

Let us love God well—the pre-Christians are waiting for us!


Rick Holman