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Posts Tagged ‘Christian love’

Today I want us to focus on “How we should relate to one another” in our congregation.

God doesn’t just call and work through individuals. He has called us to be in community; a part of the people of God. That’s how God has always worked. Being in a community together has many advantages –

  • we can accomplish more together
  • we can support one another, and
  • we complement each other with our different gifts as the body of Christ

For these reasons and more to be a Christian means to be a part of the church. It means to be plugged into and active in a local congregation.

But it is also true that being in community with one another can be challenging. Misunderstandings, different personalities and points of view can lead to conflict and pain. But God uses this. This is a part of God’s purpose for having us be together, and not just off all by ourselves serving God independently. As Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Our interactions with each other are meant to make us better.

God puts us together, as different as we are to stretch us and to teach us what love is really all about. And you can’t learn this unless you are in relationships with others. And I dare say in relationship with people who are different than you are. And like all love, this can be painful.

The problem is that when we experience relationship difficulties we too often respond in inappropriate ways, which compounds the situation. We do what comes naturally to us – in our human weakness and self-centeredness. Things like gossip, slander, always thinking we are right, always wanting our way, holding on to resentments and negative attitudes, being mean, being cliquish, being impatient,   being hard-hearted. The list could go on and on.

We have all seen or experienced or even practiced these kinds of things. (It’s amazing what can happen in churches.) And because of this and the pain it brings, many draw back and don’t want to be a part. And thus God’s purpose is defeated.

And so we need to be reminded, not of what comes naturally to us in the flesh; we need to be reminded of what comes supernaturally to us by the Word of God and the Spirit of God working in our hearts – to care for each other in our relationships with one another.

And to remind us of what this looks like and to challenge us to be this way with each other I want us to look at the “one another” passages this morning. These are various verses in the New Testament that have the phrase “one another” or “each other” and which tell us how we are to relate as brothers and sisters in the Lord. (These are most of the positive exhortations that have to do with two Greek words that mean – “one another” or “each other.” [αλληλων; ῾εαυτου. The latter is marked by an asterisk.])

 I have arranged them into several categories. As we go through these I want you to think about how these might apply to you, and how you relate to others in our fellowship. Where might God be challenging you this morning? Who might you need to make things right with?

1. We are to love one another

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” – John 13:34. Love means acting for the well-being of another. And in this verse Jesus gives us himself as an example. We are to love one another just as Jesus loved us. That is, we are to lay down our lives for one another. We are to sacrifice for the good of one another.

Several other verses also speak to this: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” – 1 John 4:7. “Love one another with brotherly affection.” – Romans 12:10. Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” – 1 Peter 1:22

Do we love one another? It’s not about just words or feeling, but about how we treat one another.

2. We are to welcome one another

Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you.” – Romans 15:7. The context here is that of Jews and Gentiles getting along in the church at Rome. Although from very different backgrounds they are to accept each other as fellow believers.

Closely related to this is “Show hospitality to one another.” – 1 Peter 4:9. Hospitality means to be warm and friendly, to make room for someone, to include that person, even if they are different.

Do we welcome one another? Are we warm and friendly with one another?

3. We are to bear one another’s burdens

 Paul says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2. The context here is that of gently correcting each other if we fall into transgression. This is a way of showing our concern for one another. As James 5:19-20 says, “if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death . . .”

But certainly bearing burdens can cover working with all kinds of needs. We are to help one another with our life burdens. The law of Christ is the commandment, “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

4. We are to be at peace with one another

 Jesus said, “Be at peace with one another.”  Mark 9:50. The context here is in part that Jesus’ disciples were arguing with each other about who was the greatest. Not only does he tell them that to be great you must be the servant of all, he tells them to be at peace with one another.

Other verses that speak to this: Live in harmony with one another.” – Romans 12:16. Be at peace *with each other.1 Thessalonians 5:13 (own translation).

Are we living in peace with one another? Do we work through our disagreements and conflicts? Being at peace doesn’t mean pretending that we get along. It means working through things with love and respect for one another, so that our relationships are whole and life-giving.

5. We are to serve one another

 Through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13

 A similar verse applies this to using our spiritual gifts to serve each other – “As each has received a gift, use it to serve *one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” – 1 Peter 4:10.

6. We are to bear with one another

. . . with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love . . ..” – Ephesians 4:2. This means to put up with, to tolerate or to endure. If you are married you know that even those couples that love each other the most still have to do this in areas. Here it has to do with the weaknesses in another believer or the things they say and do that might rub you the wrong way.

How are you doing with this?

7. We are to be kind with one another

 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted.” – Ephesians 4:32. That is, don’t be hard hearted, but rather mild, generous or considerate.

8. We are to forgive one another

Our previous verse goes on to say, “. . . forgiving *one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:32. When someone has wronged you, choose to love them, and seek to work through it, and when they make things right, restore the relationship.

9. We are to be humble before one another

 Peter says, “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another.” – 1 Peter 5:5.

A specific example of this comes from Paul, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:10. Lift up your brother and sisters in the Lord. It’s like a competition,  not for praise, but to give honor and praise to others.

10. We are to teach one another

 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing *one another in all wisdom.” – Colossians 3:16. We are to share with one another of what God has taught us. To admonish is to teach in a way that warns and corrects.

 Along these lines the writer of Hebrews says, “But exhort *one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Hebrews 3:13.

11. We are to pray for one another

James says, “Pray for one another.” – James 5:16. We are to care for each other by lifting lift up each other’s concerns before the Lord that he might give grace and help in their time of need.

Do you pray for others among us during the week?

12. We are to confess our sins to one another

Our previous verse in its entirety says, “Confess your sins to one another pray for one another, that you may be healed.” – James 5:16. Certainly this means that we confess our sins to the one we have wronged. And it could, when appropriate, mean confessing our sins more broadly than this. This all requires vulnerability before others and honesty.

And then we pray for healing for the person from any discipline the Lord may have allowed them to go through, because of their sin. Once the sin is dealt with, the discipline can be lifted.

13. We are to do good to one another

 Paul says, “Always seek to do good to one another.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:15. He says just before this that we are certainly not to repay evil for evil, or harm for harm to one another. You know, “I’m going to get them back!” Rather we are always to do good to each other.

14. We are to encourage one another

Paul says, “Encourage one another and build one another up.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11. To encourage means to instill someone with courage; to cheer them up, to comfort them. Close in meaning to this is the word “build up,” which means to strengthen or to make more able.

Similarly, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” – Hebrews 10:24. The idea is that we can become complacent or lazy and so we are to act to get each other focused and moving forward.

So here are 14 ways we are to relate to one another:

  1. Love one another
  2. Welcome one another
  3. Bear one another’s burdens
  4. Be at peace with one another
  5. Serve one another
  6. Bear with one another
  7. Be kind to one another
  8. Forgive one another
  9. Be humble before one another
  10. Teach one another
  11. Pray for one another
  12. Confess our sins to one another
  13. Do good to one another
  14. Encourage one another

How are you doing? Do you need to make some changes?

Let the power of God’s Word work in your heart and mind to show you the way. And ask the Spirit to come in power to change your heart in any way that might be needed, so that our relationships with each other will be strong and pleasing to God in every way. And so that we can work here together in unity to do God’s work.

May our relationships be so full of Christian love that people can sense it when they come in to worship with us. May God make this so.

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I want to share with you on the topic of Christian love – how we are to love our neighbors, our fellow church members, our spouses, our kids, our parents, our co-workers – and whatever other relationships you want to add in here, even our enemies.

I want to talk about what Christian love is, what it looks like, some of the core components of it and how it’s different than what the world calls love.

Let me set the stage for looking at what Christian love is, by making the point that –

Love is the most important thing of all

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 13. Here he says that:

  • You can exercise spiritual gifts, like speaking in tongues, but if you don’t have love for others, you’re just a “clanging cymbal” – v. 1.
  • You can be prophetic and have all knowledge, but if you don’t have love for others, Paul says, you are “nothing” – v. 2.
  • You can work amazing miracles, but if you don’t have love for others, you are “nothing” – v. 2.
  • You can even sacrifice greatly giving away wealth or dying for a cause, but if you don’t have love for others in this, you “gain nothing” – v. 3.

We can add any number of other examples: what you accomplish with your career, your life achievements, your reputation, your wealth, your relationships with your family and friends, your volunteer work, the roles you have filled in church. The point is the same: without love, you are nothing.

Paul is saying in this passage that these other things are partial and will pass away in the age to come. But “love never ends” – v. 8. It goes on into eternity.

So, for instance, if I come to God on the final day saying, “look at all the knowledge I have!” God could say to me, “the least in the eternal kingdom knows a thousand times more than you.” It’s like I’m boastfully bringing a brick of gold to a kingdom that has so much gold that it uses it to pave its streets.  

Love is what is all important in God’s kingdom. Love for God for sure, and our topic here – love for others. So here’s some questions to consider: Have you loved others with your life? Have you made loving others the focus of your life? Have you shaped everything you do in life toward the end of loving others?

Now, since love is the most important thing of all, it’s extremely important to ask and then answer the question –

What is Christian love?

1. Love requires actions. Love begins within; in our hearts. But it must come to fruition in deeds of love. 1 John 3:18 says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Good thoughts or good words aren’t enough. When there is a need and you can help, to love “in truth,” as John says, is to act.

The example from this context is helping someone who lacks basic material needs. 1 John 3:16 says, “if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his sister or brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” It’s not enough to say good things, “Oh, you don’t have food and clothing?” “Go in peace, be warmed and filled” (James 2:16). Love requires action.

2. Love acts for the well-being of others. We are to “do good” to all, even if they do us harm, as Jesus teaches in Luke 6:27 and Paul teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:15. Let’s look at some specifics:

  • God loves us in that he feeds us, giving rain and sunshine to all so that our crops grow – Matthew 5:45
  • God loves us in that he gave his only Son to die for our salvation – John 3:16; Romans 5:8
  • Jesus teaches us to pray for, bless others, even if they mistreat us – Luke 6:28
  • Jesus healed the ear of the one who arrested him – Luke 22:50; and he prayed for those who crucified him – Luke 23:34

These are all good actions, aimed at doing what is best for another.

Now, If love truly means doing what is best for another then we can’t just go around being nice. We can’t reduce love to being nice. Being nice and keeping up good social etiquette is often more about staying out of people’s problems and needs. For example quickly giving money to a homeless person, hoping they go away. Or not saying anything to a fellow believer who is involved in sin, lest you make waves.

We keep up social etiquette so that we can feel good about ourselves, but we get ourselves off the hook of actually having to love them. Love, however, means doing what is best for the person. And so sometimes love has to be tough and deal with issues, precisely because this is what is in the best interests of the person.

Also, if love means doing what is best for another we can’t just join in with doing harm for harm. You may have the right to do this legally or it may be the just thing to do. But we have a higher standard to live by. We always have to consider what is best also for the other person. This must control our actions, not an eye for an eye, even with evil people.

The only way we can do something that harms someone, is for it to be redemptive harm; something that doesn’t destroy them, but something that does them good in the long run.

[Nor can I say that it is OK to non-redemptively harm or destroy someone as long as I am not doing it as a personal vendetta, or in anger, or with hatred in my heart. My actions reveal what is in my heart – Luke 6:44-45. If I simply act to harm someone, without regard for what is best for them, my actions reveal (at a minimum) a lack of love for that person in my heart.]

Love acts for the well-being of others.

3. Love is a commitment to act for the well-being of others. This is where our culture is so wrong. Love is not based on feelings. It may involve certain feelings from time to time, but these can waver or even go away for a time.

This is why there is so much divorce today, and you see this especially in celebrity culture, the feeling leaves and so the relationship ends. But Christian love is based on a deep commitment to the other person and their good. It’s a choice that we make. That’s why God can command us to love others. You can’t command a feeling, but you can a choice.

This kind of love is a defining characteristic of God. As God says about himself in Exodus 34:6, the LORD is a God “abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness . . . keeping steadfast love to the thousandth generation.” The word here “steadfast love” has to do with unchanging love. It is God’s sustained covenant loyalty to his people. It is based on his commitment to our well-being.

Think of God’s love for his people throughout the centuries, calling us, teaching us, walking with us, bearing with us – his love isn’t based on warm feelings. It is based on this firm commitment to us and for what is best for us. And so as well, Christian love is based on a commitment to act for the good of another.

4. Love involves sacrifice, laying down our lives for others. As Jesus said about himself in Mark 10:45, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 1 John 3:16 speaks of Jesus’ love in this way, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for” others.

Often the world portrays love as focused on finding personal fulfillment, that is, for yourself. It’s about what you get out of the relationship. But Christian love is about what you give to the one you love, or what you give up for them – serving and sacrificing.

In the world if you’re not feeling fulfilled in the relationship you leave. But Christian love teaches us that true fulfillment only comes when we move past self-centered love and learn to serve and sacrifice for the one we love.

5. Christian loves includes all people. It is always easier to limit our love to a certain subset of people, but Jesus teaches us that all are included.

  • It’s easy to love those who like us, but we are to love those who don’t love us; those who harm us. Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” – Matthew 5:46.
  • It’s easy to love those who are like us, but we are to love those who are different than us – different race, nationality, economic or social status. Jesus said, “And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” – Matthew 5:47.

Jesus teaches that our love is to be perfect or “complete,” like the Father’s love is perfect or complete, the word here in Matthew 5:48 can be translated either way. This is a love which is complete because it includes both the “evil and the good” and the “just and the unjust” – Matthew 5:45.

Let me end by saying –

This kind of love only comes from God

It doesn’t come from our flesh, our self-centered existence apart from God. In the flesh we want what is best and easiest for us. Christian love!? What!?

  • Good words and thoughts aren’t enough, I have to something?
  • I can’t just be nice or act according to harm for harm? You know, something less than acting for the well-being of another.
  • It’s not based on feelings? I have to hang in through thick and thin? When I don’t feel like it?
  • It’s not about me? I have to focus on giving, even sacrificing?
  • I can’t limit it to people who like me, or how are like me?

The flesh doesn’t want anything to do with Christian love.

No, this kind of love only comes from God, who is love. As 1 John 4:7 says, “God is love.” And only God can produce this kind of love in our hearts. Christian love is “the fruit of the Spirit” who is at work within us – Galatians 5:22.

William Higgins

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We are bringing our summer series to a close today. We’ve been looking at building healthy relationships with each other in our church community. We talked about: Repentance, forgiveness, going to the one who has wronged you to seek peace; anger; gossip; and last week not judging. Today we deal with conflict.

The first thing I want to say is that –

Conflict is a normal part of life

 Given our different backgrounds, life experiences, personalities, and understandings of things – it is inevitable. We will have disagreements in faith and practice – all the way to what the color of the carpet should be & everything in between!

What I am sayings is that it is not a sin to disagree. In fact, it is not even a failure to disagree. Often conflict means that we are getting into real relationships with each other. We are getting past the small talk. Working through these conflicts can be tremendous for building true community.

 Conflict was certainly a part of the early church

  • In Acts 6:1 we find that the Judean Christians overlooked the needs of the Hellenistic Christians in terms of passing out the food rations to the widows. It says, “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.”
  • In 1 Corinthians 1:11 we see that there was quarrelling among different groups in the Corinthian church. It says, “For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers and sisters.”
  • And in Philippians 4:2-3 we find two coworkers of Paul who could not get along. It says, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel . . ..”

Conflict is normal and when we see it among us we should not be surprised. I mean, think about it, if the apostolic church had it – certainly we will! The key is how you respond to it. This is where we get into trouble; this is where we can fail or fall into sin. So let me share with you seven things to do when there is conflict that will help us to work toward peace.

 1. Love the person

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in terms of conflict. “Love is patient and kind” in the midst of conflict. “Love does not envy or boast. Love is not arrogant or rude” in how it responds to the other. “Love does not insist on its own way.” It is open to hear the other; it is yielding. “Love is not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” It is not happy if the other person is shown to be wrong. The focus is on what is best and right. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Even when there is conflict.

This is how we should treat others with whom we disagree. We should never demonize them, tear down, or think the worst of them just because they dare not agree with us. Loving the other person is foundational.

 2. Go to the other person

It is not necessary that we agree on everything, but in some cases we have to come to a resolution to move forward or to get along. In these cases – don’t go to someone else and gossip, go to the person you disagree with. This comes from Matthew 18:15. This is talking about when someone has wronged you, but the principle of face to face contact certainly applies here also.

 3. Work hard to understand the other person’s point of view

James 1:19 says in part, “Know this, my beloved sisters and brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak . . ..” You should be quick to hear the one who disagrees with you. You should be slow to speak, actually listening and not just waiting to give your side. Understand their position clearly and why they hold it. You should be able to make their case for them.

4. Seek to find a mutually satisfying resolution

In Acts 6 we saw how there was a conflict in the Jerusalem church over the food allotment for widows between the Judean Jews and the Hellenistic Jews. Well, they came together and found a solution that satisfied everyone. The apostles would focus on preaching and prayer and they appointed seven deacons to tend to the practical needs of the community, including the widows.

Notice as well that these deacons all seem to have Hellenistic names. So the majority, the Judeans worked hard to take care of the concerns of the Hellenists. They put them in charge of the food allotment.

This is an example to us. Out of love and respect we work to deal with the issues in a way that is acceptable to all.

5. If necessary, accept mediation

 If the two of you can’t work something out, let someone else come in who is good at working at resolutions; perhaps even a conflict mediator. In Philippians 4:2-3 Paul says, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel . . ..” Paul is talking to a specific person and asking him to help these women get along. For the sake of peace, be willing to accept this kind of help with your conflicts.

6. In some cases we might need to accept the disagreementand move  forward separately but peacefully

 Now often Christians separate over the smallest of issues; even just over having a conflict! But in some cases the disagreement is over central values or issues of  conscience. This is different.

Paul & Barnabas could not agree on an important issue: taking Mark along with them on their second missionary journey. Mark had abandoned them on the first trip. Acts 15:39 says, “And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other.” One did ministry in one place and the other did ministry in another place.

Christians will not always agree on things. This is why we have different kinds of churches. But let it be without bitterness and spite. Notice that we find Paul later praising Barnabas (1 Corinthians 9) and wanting Mark’s services (Colossians 4).

 7. In some cases we might need to allow mature believers to render a  resolution

In 1 Corinthians 6:5, after rebuking them for taking each other to court (which Christians should never do), Paul says, “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?” Paul is saying, in essence, form your own (Christian) court. Gather mature, wise believers who can offer a resolution that both parties bind themselves to, even if it is not exactly what they wanted, for the sake of peace.

In all of this –

Our goal is to live in peace with one another

Listen to these admonitions to peace in the New Testament, which certainly apply to situations of conflict:

  • “Be at peace with one another” – Mark 9:50
  • “Be at peace among yourselves” – I Thessalonians 5:13
  • “Live in harmony with one another” – Romans 12:16
  • “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building” – Romans 14:19
  • “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed your were called in the one body” – Colossians 3:15
  • “Pursue peace with everyone” – Hebrews 12:14

We find this peace, not by sweeping conflict under the rug, or living in denial, but by dealing with it in the ways that we have looked at.

Sometimes it takes hard work to deal with conflict

And the temptation is to deny it or sweep it under the rug. Just because conflict is normal, doesn’t mean it is easy. It can be very painful, distressing and trying. But as Paul says, “If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” – Romans 12:18. This doesn’t mean live peaceably until it seems impossible and then don’t live peaceably. It means for your part do everything you can to live in peace with others. You can’t force someone to live in peace with you. But do all you can from your end.

Let us each commit to do everything in our power to live in peace with one another, by working through our conflicts even when it is hard.

William Higgins

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