The Christian Graces — Community of Love

God’s love was perfectly exemplified in God’s Son.  Now that Christ resides in heaven, it is His Body, the Church, whom He expects to reach out with His embrace of love.  That love is primarily to be directed toward the individual members of the Church and then to all the world.  Love was intended to be so much a characteristic of the Church that Jesus could say, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

In the book of Acts and the epistles we see the tangible ways in which this love was expressed, from providing for the poor (Acts 6; 2 Corinthians 8,9; James 2:14-16), supporting ministers of the Word (Galatians 6:6), and the widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16), to a general showing of hospitality (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2).  But actually, the community of love demonstrates its love in countless loving deeds performed by every believer every day for other Christians and non-Christians alike.

The apostle Paul especially developed the theology of love in the Christian community.  As he wrote to Timothy, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5).  The goal of our instruction is not the evangelization of the world, though that will result from achieving the goal of love.  It is not sound doctrine, though that is necessary if we are to love properly.  The goal of our instruction cannot be anything other than love or the church will not function as it must.

The Church cannot “grow up into him who is the Head” unless it “builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:15,16), and it might as well not grow or even exist if it has nothing to offer but the shallow sentiments of the world.  Salvation could have been an individual possession with no community basis had God not intended for the community to provide believers with unique benefits.  A body of believers who love one another is the perfect environment for personal growth, a worthy place to bring new converts, and is itself a testimony to the world of the reality of Christ’s claims.  Lack of love in the community of faith will kill Bible teaching, foment divisions, and draw the world’s cries of hypocrisy.

The dynamic for love is present in every genuine Christian (1 John 3:14,15) but must be consciously worked on and stimulated by gathering in fellowship.  And so Hebrews 10:24,25 serves as a suitable conclusion: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

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One thought on “The Christian Graces — Community of Love

  1. Howdy Randall,

    I’ve been until recently attending a church of about 350 members for about 17 years. To tell you the truth, it was getting to be a pretty jaded experience. Had a few people to whom i was close in the church but frankly it was all just getting a bit tired and tiresome – you know all those superficial relationships with most of teh people. One gets tired of the forced, polite smiles etc. Finally one decides it’s just not worth the effort.

    I’m married with children and they don’t seem too integrated in the church either.

    You are absolutely correct in the portrait you are trying to paint here from (a) the Bible and (b) from the reality of who Christ is and what He has done for us – this is the ideal. The reality falls far far short of the ideal is my testimony to 17 years in this Bible believing church. What’s the point of coming and going Sunday after Sunday ?

    I was about to call it quits and believe me that was no small thing for me as i was always mindful of the example i set for my three children.

    But then our church decided to start a church plant and they sent letters to folks who lived in the area where they wanted to plant the church. And even though we are slightly outside the area, we got the letter inviting us to join. I had been praying about what God wanted me to do about my churchmanship, so we committed ourselves to this seeing it as a next step.

    Now about 25 of us have started meeting in a different place. We’re, for all intents and purposes, a new and different church ; but, of course, the people are all from the “mother church”. Our pastor who is the young assistant pastor of the “mother church” has come over to be the pastor of the church plant and his whole focus for the past 3 weeks we’ve been meeting has been exactly what you wrote above – to a tee ! You couldn’t have paraphrased what our pastor has been saying and doing any better.

    The pastor is a young and smart guy and it looks like he’s got ideas for this church plant but i am a pessimist and a cynic and i can’t see how all this is gonna become reality.

    I guess churches do get planted all over the world and they do manage to grow in accordance to the biblical norm and i suppose the people in such churche somehow manage to love each other like you (and our young pastor) is exhorting us but i still can’t see it happening. I’m just too jaded, i guess.

    Take care.

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