There is a lot of talk these days about the Church, good and bad. I fear, since the talk seems to be mostly bad, that we have lost sight of what the Church really is, who we are– we who make up the body of Christ. So, for a-yet-to-be-determined number of posts, I’ll be discussing ways the Bible describes the Church and what that means to us. I’ll also be ending each post with a guide for prayer, so we can join together in calling upon God to make us who he meant for us to be.
We Are: Love.
I feel like I write about this all the time, but it’s never enough. For me or for anyone else. It’s so prevalent and pervasive in how Scripture instructs us to live, yet such a tough concept for us to engage. As dc Talk put it, “Luv is a Verb.” We are love because we love. We love because we are loved by God. That is how it should work. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
Jon Foreman writes, “We struggle better than we salsa. The habit of the fight seems easy to explain: Dominance is easier to achieve than friendship; consumption is easier than love; and objectification is easier than empathy… all too often I’m distracted by the fight: sidelined by the little battles along the way.”
We are so easily distracted; we so often trade the eternal for the temporal. Love isn’t about agreeing with everything someone says. It’s not about a relationship status or mutual friends. Love isn’t a feeling or emotion. It’s a choice, a commitment, a change.
And do you know who Jesus demonstrated that he wanted us to love? Yes, the poor, the lost, the sick, and the disenfranchised. Of course. But do you know who Jesus commanded us to love? One another. Our fellow believers. He didn’t say that the world is going to know we belong to him because we love the world– he said the world is going to know we belong to him because we love one another. That should change everything about how we interact with others in the Church.
By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
–John 13:35, HCSB
What is love? Well, we get some excellent descriptions of it throughout the Bible. Paul’s now famous lines in 1 Corinthians 13 are a good place to start. Love is patient, kind, doesn’t envy, isn’t selfish or egotistical, rejoices in truth, and much more. But there are so many more descriptions of what love should look like in the Bible, it would take far too long to list them all… but here are a few:
This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?
–1 John 3:16-17, HCSB
Lay down your lives. Provide for your brothers and sisters in need.
Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality.
–Romans 12:9-12, HCSB
Love without hypocrisy. Be affectionate and persistent in love and service. Be prayerful, generous, and hospitable.
He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
– Matthew 22:37-28, HCSB
Love God first and above all. But love your neighbor– whoever you meet– as you love yourself. That’s a tall order, because we love ourselves dearly.
Let’s pray for love.
Father, we know you are love. Without Your love for us, we wouldn’t have a clue as to what it means to love. But you proved your love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We know we fail at loving like you do, God, but we also know you give us the inspiration and ability to love. We do love you, even though we fail. And we want to love one another, even though we fail.
Lord, “Let us love/ Like we were children/ Make us feel/ Like we’re still living/ In a world I know is burning to the ground/ Give us time/ To beat the system/ Make us find/ What we’ve been missing/ In a world I know is burning to the ground.”(NEEDTOBREATHE, “Let Us Love”)
Let us love with abandon, without boundaries or conditions. Let us not just say we love, but let us show love to our brothers and sisters with our actions and our lives. Let us love those in the world, but also let us love one another with a ferocity that makes the world take notice. Teach us to love like you do. Teach us the sacrificial, deep, eternal love that you lavish so freely on us.
COMMENT: When have you “found love in a hopeless place”? When have a fellow believer or group of believers surprised you with how they loved?
You can read the other posts in this series here.