Our family’s tiny home in the Appalachian foothills was a concrete block shell with a tar paper roof and casement windows. Our uninsulated walls and painted concrete floors were noisy and dusty, baking us in the summer and freezing us in the winter. Water pipes ran along the floor from room to room, and electrical cables ran down the walls from ceiling to the bare metal boxes housing two-wire outlets. A standing pipe with a showerhead sprayed wildly at bath time, wetting the free-standing sink and toilet as well as the painted floor that sloped into a common drain. Our housing, at the lower end of the economic ladder in our small town, marked us as poor by American standards, although rich compared to Somalia, Delhi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Haiti.
But no one told us that we were poor. Not that it would have mattered. We were happy. Our Saturday breakfast table would sometimes find the town’s Mayor, the Sheriff, a priest or even a half dozen children from other families laughing, eating, and teasing one another. Evenings and weekends found our simple home nearly overrun with kids – black, white, Asian, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and unknown. Our doors were never locked. No one knew where the keys were anyway. People come where they are loved and stay where they are celebrated. We were not Christians; in fact, I was an atheist. But, we knew what love looked like, felt like, and smelled like. So did our neighbors and friends. They experienced it at our home.
After a saving encounter with Jesus at age 18, I began visiting meetings in the many congregations in our small town. I sang with Nazarenes, communed with Episcopalians, Lutherans and Catholics, prayed with Baptists and shouted with Pentecostals. They were all quite friendly until I let it slip that I was also visiting with “those people” – then they felt duty bound to expose the doctrinal errors and aberrant behavior of those people and issue stern warnings against deception. These avid church-goers paid no attention to their neighbors or to our community’s poor. They were too busy fighting with each other over doctrine, drinking, smoking, long hair and short skirts to care about us.
Some told me to leave, and only return when I renounced my association with those people. St Paul, in encouraging Timothy to correct errant doctrine, reminded him (I Tim 1.5) that “The purpose of my instruction is love from a pure heart and an undefiled conscience.” I guess those church-goers stopped reading the New Testament after Romans. If Heaven’s test of discipleship is love for one another, then my town boasted many Pharisees and few disciples. Today, the Church boasts more than 36,000 denominations that separated from their predecessors in a quest for purer doctrine or a clearer line of authority. None of these were founded because they loved each other so intensely that they were expelled by thin-skinned curmudgeons! Tragically, there are lots of believers, but few disciples.
In May 2018, John McIntosh Brown, a beloved friend and fellow servant of the Lord, graduated from mortality to immortality. His last 4 months were lived with the knowledge that his body was riddled with cancer. Several saints who live in the miraculous traveled to the UK, called him forward, and poured all of the healing grace they possessed into John. Others met with him on Zoom or Skype calls, and laid their faith and healing gifts at his feet. Life-long friends from Perth, Australia, John’s home of origin, sent financial support and some even traveled to be with him. He had spent time in our home, and we spoke often in the days after he moved into hospice care, including the day that he went home to be with the Lord.
John avidly introduced me to his network of friends – including a new apostolic / prophetic network in Europe, and an emerging apostolic/prophetic network in Perth. He told them stories about how Grant and Laurie Russell introduced him to the Courts of Heaven ministry, through which he finally felt accepted and loved as a Son and as a Friend of God. Friends sponsored his travel to the USA and attendance at KCIA’s 2017 Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon. Purity Munyi, Danny and Cheryl Dean, Marc and Kathleen Kaplan, Jim Campbell, Sharon Zeigler, Vicki Norris and many others became fast friends with John and part of his spiritual family.
The evening before John died he told me, “Never, ever forget this John. I’ve told everyone who will listen. I never felt totally loved and accepted anywhere like I did from the saints at KCIA. Please give them my gratitude.”
The test of true faith is Love. James writes that love is the perfect law, the law of liberty, the Royal law (James 1.25, 2.8). While Jesus scolded a church for departing from their “first love,” John the Beloved reminds us that we are lying if we claim to love God but do not express love for our brothers in visible, practical terms. Many other important issues – confession of Lordship, repentance, forgiveness, fasting and prayer, adherence to apostolic doctrine, tithing, support for world missions and even the ways that Christians often use to compare themselves with others – are secondary.
In fact, Jesus intentionally took away from us the right to measure our faith and discipleship, and gave it to those outside the faith – the world.
What ruler did he give them to use?
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples – if you love each other.”
How do you measure up? Are you living a Golden Rule life? Would your spouse and kids, or grandkids proclaim you as an example of love? Do your suppliers, customers, employees, creditors and investors tell stories about you that exemplify Golden Rule living? What about the congregation down the street, with the weird doctrine and the blog that has judged you and branded you a cult leader? Would your congregation brag about how you love your enemies?
Jesus declared love to be the law of His Kingdom (the perfect law, the Royal law, the law of liberty) “This is my commandment, that you love one a