Real Christian love? What should that look like?
The Bible is very clear about how important love is in a Church. God puts it first, above teaching, evangelism, giving, faith, etc. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)
Everything else hangs on these two things, 'love God and love everybody else the same way that you love yourself.'
There is only one place we can find out about it, see what it is like and experience it and that's in the Bible.
The first experience I had with real love was through pain. There's a Christian song called 'O Love that wilt not let me go,' and the third verse goes like this...
O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to Thee,
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.
God drew me to Him using pain, the painful circumstances of my life. I wouldn't dream of going to Him when times were good so He allowed my life to crumble until I could fall no further and eventually I looked up to Him and said 'if You are there, show me,' and He did.
I am just off the phone where somebody close to me is going through a hard time, again, and she asked me to pray for her. When I was praying I asked God if He would save her, even if it has to be the way He saved me, even though it was so painful at the time. I tell you the truth when I say that I wouldn't change one tiny bit of the pain that God used to draw me to Him.
So that was my first taste of true love. God loves me so much that He allowed me to go through a lot of pain so I would wake up and turn to Him for help and salvation from hell but.... before all that, Jesus, the Son of God went through terrible pain before and on the cross in my place. Why? Because He first loved me. He loves me enough to take the punishment for my sins so I won't have to be punished for them, so I can belong to Him and so I can spend eternity with Him in a love relationship.
But that's just the beginning of it. At the start of your new relationship with God your heart is bursting full of love towards Him, your sisters and brothers in the Lord, your family, your neighbours and enemies. But how does this manifest itself especially in the Church? What does it look like?
It's more than a smile and a hello at the Church service on a Sunday morning.
This is something I have been praying about and looking into a lot these past four years and at the end of the day I have found that my opinion is worthless and the Bible's is everything. So, here is what I believe God says about love for the brethren and what it looks like.
Firstly, you don't know what true love is unless you have been converted and are being loved by God. To love God and be loved by God has no equivalent in this world. I have loved people in my life, grand parent, parent, husband, child, and lovely as all these relationships can be, there is no comparison between these loves and the love of God.
If you are a true Christian Jesus who is God says that if you love Him you will love the Brethren. That seems straight forwards enough but lets take a closer look.
I think the first question to ask here is in what way does God love us. If we know how He does that, then we can know how He expects us to love others. One way He loves us is in a sacrificial way. He poured Himself our for us. He gave up everything (Heaven) to come down to this Earth and live and suffer and die... for us! The will of Jesus' Father was for Jesus to take the punishment that is due to me and suffer in my place. He sacrificed Himself for us because He loves us.
So how will this look like when trying to love our sisters and brothers in the Church?
2 Peter 1:5-8
In verse 7 it says 'to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.'
Kindness is a good place to start. First of all in our thoughts towards one another. You won't be attending Church very long before somebody irritates or annoys you. Mostly, if you are really honest with yourself it will stem from your own sinfulness, impatience, tiredness etc., but even if someone is being a bit of a pain, you have to check your thoughts and keep them holy. The Bible says that we ought to put others above ourselves, to think more highly of others.
Here is the starting point. Check your thoughts and immediately think kind thoughts towards them. (whatever is good, whatever is lovely) Perhaps something is going on in their lives that you don't know about that is really worrying them, stretching them and hurting them and they are at the end of their endurance. I mean, if a hurting Christian can't show his true (and sometimes ugly) self among other Christians and be loved, forgiven and helped there, where can he?
God says that love covers a multitude of sins. Yes, I can understand this in relation to loving my husband and son. It's fairly easy to forgive Niall something. Why? Because I love him very much. You should hear my son and what he says when I ask his forgiveness. He is so willing to forgive me; He showers me with forgiveness! Why? Because he loves me so much! Husbands and wives can forgive each other the most heinous sins because of their great love for each other, BUT, if a sister or bother in the Lord steps out of line, just one time, it can be another story altogether!
Friend, it all starts in our minds. That's where the battle ought to be fought. Show a little pity and compassion towards your sisters and brothers. Show a little patience and long suffering. If there is something about them that bug's you DON'T stay away from them. That's wrong and it's sinful. Pray for them regularly. Pray for yourself and your attitude and ask God to change it!
That's what love is all about; that's what we are commanded to do.
True love is sacrificial and when we sacrifice our pride or our 'rights' it hurts. Sometimes true Christ like love hurts, but it's worth it.
1 Peter 4:1 says, 'Therefore since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.'
1 Corinthians 13:7 says
'love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.'
Lets 'bear' and 'endure' a little more for our church. Lets 'love' it and show it and not just read about it in the Bible. Remember in Mark 9:41 Jesus says, 'For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.'
What about Church members who live alone, who are newly married, who are sick, who are old, who are recently bereaved, who are young? What about our over worked pastors, their enduring wives, what about our teenagers who are tempted and bombarded by sin? What about the folk who are just about to leave or did you not notice the warning signs and then wonder where they are? What about the newly converted or the babes that were converted 20 years ago? What about exhausted mothers of young children, people who just lost their jobs, students taking their exams?
Here are some scriptures that pertain to real Christian love. Read them and think of your relationships with others. Is it ANYTHING like this???? If not, confess your sin to God, repent and change.
1 Peter 4:7-10.
'But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for 'love will cover a multitude of sins.' Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.'
2 John 4:20,21
'If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.'
1 John 4:7&8
'Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God'.
'Bear one another's burdens.'
'...Through love serve one another... You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'
What is fervent love? It is consuming and it burns you up! Do you love your Church with a love like this? Do you give a hoot what is going on in their lives right now? Do you have regular contact with as many as you can to keep up with them and find out what's going on in their lives? How can you pray for them and their needs if you hardly ever talk with them?
EVERY Christian alive has problems and needs encouragement, help and prayer and if you do these things it is a way of showing love to them. It is loving them :0)
It's vital that a Christian love other Christians. Vital because it is a mark of true conversion. If you say you are a Christian and don't love the brethren the way the Bible commands, then you are in sin or you are not converted; either way you have to confess this sin to God and receive His forgiveness; either way, it is a serious thing and needs to be dealt with immediately.
If you are loving your church with a fervent love, thank the Lord and remember 1 Peter 5:10, But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, stenghten, and settle you.
Also remember Hebrews 6:10, For God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown towards His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
Also remember this beautiful promise in Galatians 6:7, 'for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.'
If, like me you sometimes struggle with loving your Church, pray to God for forgiveness, strength and endurance and remember Hebrews 6:12, 'do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promise.'
Also, following on from 2 Peter 1:7, (brotherly kindness and love) verse 9 tells us, 'For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.'
Also remember this scripture from Galatians 6:9&10, it's bursting full of wisdome and encouragement, 'And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not loose heart. Therefore, as we have oppertunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.'
If you live your life without a thought for the Church other than to attend the service on a Sunday morning please check yourself to see if you are in the faith. The world wide Church has many false converts/Christians, make sure you are not one of them.
There is no way around it; love for the Lord and the brethren is a sure mark of conversion and a lacking in this love should worry any professing Christian.
Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:17, 'Even so, every good tree bears food fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.'
So, what can we do in a practical way to love the brethren?Well, first of all and most importantly, pray for them. When you take the time to regularly pray for your brothers and sisters God will show you something about them that they need help in. Pick up a fridge magnet or book marker while shopping or buy a book from the second hand shop that you think they may like, give it to them the next time you see them telling them that they were on your mind and that you have been praying for them.
If it's somebody you don't see a lot, say somebody sick, visit them. If you feel a bit shy, ask another christian to come along. It may be a bit strange for the first time but it will improve.
Buy a small bunch of flowers and give them to an elderly member. They will love it! Tell them you have been praying for them.
Can you help by giving a gift of money to somebody? If so, find somebody you know is in need, pop money into an envelope and put it in the offerings box without your name on it(!).
If you are able and trustworthy ask younger parents if they would like you to take their kids for an afternoon.
Put a restaurant voucher in an envelope and pop it in the offerings box for somebody.
Give your Pastor/Sunday school teacher/youth worker a card thanking them and telling them how much you appreciate them. Don't forget other people in the Church that serve, like your treasurer, the people who sort out the music and here is one for you. Give a nice card or small gift to the cleaner/caretaker.
If somebody has mentioned during the service/prayer meeting that they are ill, taking exams, going on holidays, have an impending death etc., follow it up. Text or phone them during the week and see how things are.
If somebody misses a service or two and you haven't seen them in a while, phone them and tell them you are thinking of them and praying for them.
Can you bake, then bake something for somebody. Can you mow grass/build a wall/paint a room? Well, get to it! Help the singles, sick and widows in your church and offer your services.
Has somebody slowly but surely stopped attending the Church services and don't seem to be worshiping anywhere else? It doesn't matter how long they are gone whether six months or three years, drop them a line and tell them they are missed and you are praying for them.
Talk to people when you do see them. Seek out the quiet ones. Everybody loves their kids, talk to them about their children! If someone has lost a partner please talk to them about their loss, even years later. Theres nothing worse than thinking everybody forgot about your dead husband/child/wife.
Surprise someone in the Church by remembering an anniversary or birthday. Buy a card and if the Church is small enough get everybody to sign it and if not, get your Sunday school to sign it.
Oh, and by the way... go to Sunday school! it's a great way to encourage love and support to your brethren and teacher (not to mention it's good for you too!).
Ask God if He wants you to serve in the Church. Sunday school teacher, door attendant, Church secretary etc.
Be on the look out for jobs that need doing in the Church building and do them if you can. Even ask for help.
Well, there's a few ideas to get started with. If you have any other ideas of your own be sure to mention them.
Let me leave you with this scripture...1 Corinthians 14:12, 'Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the Church that you seek to excel.'