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  • Writer's picturejaredrrolston

The Lockdown Kind of Love

No Love – No Visible Disciples

Just as I [Jesus] have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34b-35)

May God have mercy on us.

We, the church, tried on the world’s lockdown kind of love. We stopped gathering, we stopped touching, we covered our faces, and we maintained our distance. The world watched, and they were pleased to see it. Looking at us was like looking into a mirror for them. We loved our own in the same way they loved the strangers up the street, and it was beautiful in their eyes. Though our Lord taught us that love is the fulfillment of the Torah, full of feasting and reclining on the ones you love (John 13:23), we ditched that definition of love for one with a whole new set of man-made rules. We were told to keep back and care with a sad outstretched arm.

That’s what real love would do, they said.

But what would the world know about real love, when it does not know the God who is love? And why would the church embrace the world’s definition of love? Have we not been called to reveal God’s love to the world? And is it not a love that is utterly at odds with the world's?

The world’s “love” is self-protecting and void of true affection. True love is self-sacrificial and recognizably warm. If true love were to continue when unprecedented government controls were imposed on us, it would necessarily be seen as hate by the world. The world cannot tolerate Christian love—it insists upon a cold and distant, germ-free and sanitary way of loving on people.

Why was it so easy for the church to comply with the world’s lockdown kind of love? Was our own love apathetic and supported by ventilators before any bugs hit our shores? Lockdowns changed the location of our love—but most church-goers were happy to spend more time by themselves on the couch, and having an excuse to avoid those boring church programs was great. Lockdowns possibly even improved our love, by stripping us of the opportunity to fight in person.

Though we were happy to sit in front of the TV with our new, one-family home churches, most were initially blinded to how our disobedience was doing damage to the body of Christ. The most vulnerable among us suffer most under solitude. Their painful experience of online church could not remain invisible forever. Their abandonment made every well-constructed sermon on the screen a further witness to the distance between God’s people.

I could use a large portion of this blog detailing the pastoral neglect I witnessed throughout that time, but I don’t think it is necessary to make my point. We all know that the church went for weeks and months ignoring every duty that requires personal interaction. We know that our pastors taught us, and acted as though, it is possible to please God and not congregate for congregational worship. These two things displayed a serious lack of love for both God and man. It was nearly impossible in those months to differentiate between the church’s love and the love of the world. Disciples that displayed the love of Christ were nowhere to be seen. Yet, as the passage I started with says, it is crucial that our love be visible.

No Repentance, No True Religion

I’m sure that many in the church will be glad to see those unfaithful days disappearing in their rear view. But time on the road won’t put any distance between them and the filthy stains on their garments. Former conformity to the world requires repentance. Until that happens, along with a public confession of wrongdoing, that person’s religion will remain defiled before God the Father.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27, emphasis added)

No Compromise – “No” to Government Impositions

This post is going to switch gears at this point because I need to let you know what I am personally doing about this.

I have come to the conviction that an uncompromised church needs to be planted.

While many churches overseas have obeyed God and defied the tyranny of their leaders, or have later recognized their disobedience and repented of it, I have not found one church in New Zealand that has publicly admitted any faults in its approach to lockdowns—and none that have committed to obeying God, rather than our government, in the future. (There may be some that have done this privately, but I have no way of knowing this.)

So, me and a good friend of mine Dominic (Bnonn) Tennant have started a fellowship, Redwood Reformation Church, with this fundamental commitment. Obviously, we are committed to other principles such as the fundamental doctrines of historic Christianity—as many other churches claim to be. But our belief in the universal compromise of New Zealand’s church over worship and discipleship has driven us to where we are.

We are not saying that all other churches are false churches. Rather, we feel convicted that at this time, we cannot be a part of them without becoming complicit in their sin. There is much to say about this, but for now, I want to briefly share the essential information about this plant.

A small number of like-minded believers have joined us, and in the Lord’s timing, we hope to covenant together and establish elders. We do expect this to take some time, as we take seriously the command not to lay on hands hastily (1 Tim. 5:22). We have also imposed an extra requirement on ourselves to have at least three more households before covenanting together. Until then, we are not partaking of the sacraments, and do not consider ourselves a true church body.

I will share a link to a sermon at the bottom of this post that lays out our view of eldership and defends the authority of the congregation to appoint and remove its leadership. Some have objected to our plant on these grounds, so if that is you, I’d encourage you to hear out our arguments.

No Lord but Christ

At Redwood Reformation Church, our fundamental belief is that the lordship of Christ extends over all men, and every sphere of life, and his rule is seen when men submit to his will as it is expressed in his word.

This means that our fellowship will be centered around a love for the scriptures and a love for each other’s growth in holiness. Holiness is not merely a growth in head knowledge, but also the application of that knowledge to life. If someone is truly your Lord, it will be seen in your obedience to him. And since we love our Lord, following His commands is not a burden. Every one of them is for our good, so we receive them with gladness. A church that places its faith in the goodness of our Lord's commands will show the victory that has overcome the world.

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. (1 John 5:3–4)

We believe that this kind of meditation on his word will make our church like a tree by streams of water (Psalm 1). We have chosen to have Redwood (the tree that Rotorua is known for) in our name for this reason. Redwoods are also fire-resistant trees that can grow for thousands of years by enduring the many forest fires that come and go around them. Each time the fire sweeps through they are the only thing left standing. This makes them a fitting symbol, as we expect persecution and hardship to ramp up in our nation in the coming years, and if we are going to survive it, we cannot be fragile. The time to prepare is now, and there are no shortcuts to true strength.

When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation. (Proverbs 10:25)

If you are interested in our vision and would like to attend one of our services, please don’t hesitate to contact either Bnonn or myself. We love meeting like-minded believers, and it would be great if we could help you in any way.

Grace and peace to you all.

You can find Dominic (Bnonn) Tennant here at:

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Jul 28, 2022

I like you analysed the failure of the church from the aspect of love. It showed up the rot that has been there for years. I don't think it's possible for the church to repent, it's too far gone.

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