By Our Love, Part 1/2
Imagine you are at your work, wherever that is for you. You and a co-worker are attempting to collaborate on a task given to you by your Boss. However, in the process of working on this task, there has been much disagreement on exactly how you should go about achieving the goal, or even the specifics of what that goal is. Because of this, not much work is getting done at all. Worse than that, the ‘disagreeing’ has degenerated in to full fledged in-fighting, name calling, and general nastiness. The jist of the fighting is “my method is better than your method and if you don’t follow my method maybe you’re not even supposed to be here” and the like. Now, in walks the ‘new guy’, he has been hired by the Boss to work with the two of you to accomplish the task. When he comes in the first day, he sees you fighting, calling each other names, being completely childish with each other, and worst of all, trashing each other’s methods and ideas about the task. How is this person going to react? A couple ways actually. One of them would be to not want to be involved with the two of you at all, perhaps he’ll quit. After all, if the two of you are destroying each other, why get involved in the first place. Perhaps he’s thinking his ideas will be crushed underfoot as well. Or, maybe he’ll get involved in the fighting, saying his ideas and methods are best, and also not focus on the ultimate goal as well, accomplishing just as ‘much’ nothing as the two of you. Either way, it’s not beneficial at all, and nothing is getting done.
This is a metaphor for how Christians act towards each other and the consequences it has. And we do it all the time. The new guy might be a new Christian, or someone who God is drawing to Him, but it works all the same. Our lack of love for one another drives them away, or drives them in to sin with us. Let’s talk about changing this situation some, shall we?
John 13: 34-35
Jesus said that we would be known to each other and the rest of the world by our love for one another. But it seems today that there is a lack of understanding of what it means to love one another, and how that is actually accomplished. Jesus didn’t say that people would see our doctrinal perfection and know that we’re Christian. He also didn’t say that we should let our internal struggles concerning who’s right and who’s wrong on non-essential issues shine before men, so that when they see how well we fight with each other, they’ll glorify God. He said to love one another as He loved us. When we see such a statement, we naturally ask, “What is love?” and the Apostle John tells us:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to
lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16
“In this is love,
not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the
propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10
“And now, dear lady, I am
not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that
we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to
his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk
in love." 2 John 1: 5-6
We also might ask “How do we love like Jesus loved?” If we take a glance at the pattern of Jesus’ life on Earth, the answer becomes clear: To love one another like Jesus did is to be a servant to one another. Much freedom has been given to the Church in this regard, but what happens when Christians use their freedom in Christ to set up roadblocks of legalism against their brothers and sisters, bringing them back in to bondage once again?
Galatians 5: 1-15
Here we have a startling situation: The Church of Galatia has been influenced by a group known then as the “Judaizers”. They were suggesting a certain heresy, that to be fully Christian, and enter in to God’s Grace, you must be circumcised in accordance with the Mosaic Law. Paul spent most of his letter to the Galatians explaining that Christ has set us free from the burdens of the law, which no one can keep anyways. If you get circumcised to ‘obey the Law’, then Christ is of no value to you because our relationship with Jesus is contingent upon faith in Him; you would essentially be rejecting God’s Grace in Christ. Well apparently this teaching was causing division among the Christians in Galatia, and they had begun fighting with each other and going in different directions. They were destroying the unity they had in Christ, because they were devouring each other. It is here that Paul warns us to watch out, and to instead live by the Spirit, not by the flesh which brings division, destruction, and the opposite of love for one another. So when we use our freedom to create more rules, more laws, we create slavery for the very people Christ freed from slavery. We devour our brothers, and instead of serving them, we make them serve a new master.
So how do we love one another? We already said it was by service, but how does that happen? In Matthew 20: 25-28, Jesus gives us the rule of thumb for service in the Kingdom of God. In fact, in this, He essentially shows us the difference between the system of the human world, and the Kingdom of God. Notice that Jesus explains how the human authorities use their power as a means to self-gain, and indulgence in to power. Basically, these authorities use other people as stepping stones to their own greedy aspirations. However, Jesus tells us that this cannot be among Christians who are not citizens of this world, but of God’s Kingdom. And it’s here that we learn what love means: it means service before self. Jesus here uses Himself as the greatest example of this love, in that while He is the greatest of all, and could have been served by all, He instead was the biggest servant of all. Paul says this again differently in Philippians 2: 5-8:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being
in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in
human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
What does Scripture say is the greatest love? John 15:13
There are many ways to serve one another in love, and one of the greatest aspects of this service is teaching and discipleship. We’re going to talk about the specific ins and outs next week.
Grace and Peace,