Increasing Love (Part 1)
One of our congregational goals is to build healthy relationships with one another. This is not merely social, by the way, since a congregation with strong, sound relationships is more likely to succeed in evangelism, will have more unified and heartfelt worship, and will be able to support members when they are facing spiritual, emotional, and even physical setbacks. But saying that we need to have a relationship with our fellow members is one thing; actually making it happen is the real challenge. Of course, fitting in with a church is not a new problem. Churches in the first century also faced difficulties:
It certainly was not out of the realm of possibility for James to imagine churches dividing over the economic status of attendees. He notes, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (James 2:1). He proceeds to describe a scenario wherein a man with expensive clothes is given preferential treatment in the worship assembly, while a bedraggled poor man is conveniently shooed into a corner. “Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:4).
For all the complaints we offer about age or background, none of our differences are as divisive or distracting as the distinction that many first century Christians made between Jews and Gentiles. If they were somehow expected to overcome those hurdles to church unity and building relationships (Galatians 3:28, 2:11ff, Romans 15:7; “Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God”) then so are we.
The church in Corinth faced an uphill battle because of their tendency to divide into camps (1 Corinthians 1:10ff), ignore or even support shameful sexual misconduct (5:1ff), resort to litigation to resolve conflicts (6:1ff), bicker over immaterial issues (8:1ff, 10:23ff), show off their wealth or the quality/quantity of their food (11:17-22), and parade their spiritual gifts in showy spectacles (14:1ff). Would you find it hard to be a member of the church in Corinth?
Love Each Other
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God” (1 John 4:7). I am impressed that of all the characteristics that could have been named as the most distinguishing for Christians, Jesus says that it is our love for each other that makes us distinctively His. “By this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). We will explore other aspects of this in future articles...