I am working through a list of eight topics about the Christian life and ministry. I am posing these topics in the form of a quiz, asking all of us to evaluate how we are doing in each of these topics. So far, I have posted the first three topics for evaluation: Love, Sin, and Attitude. Today I want to address the next topic at hand: Relationships.
The thought of humans being created to be relational seems to be gaining momentum amongst Christendom. But it needs to be talked about more and more. We were created to long for human relationships. But even beyond that, Jesus often talked of a relationship that exists that is even stronger than family relationships. It is the relationship among Christians. But if we were honest, many of us hardly experience that sort of deep relationship with other Christians. They often can become some of the hardest relationships we face. This leads me to the next question in our quiz:
Do I Love Other Christians?
Jesus was very clear in His instructions to the disciples. The way in which people will know that we are His followers is by loving each other (John 13:34-35). Not by going to church. Not by giving lots of money. Not by reading the Bible. Of course, all of those things are important, but the way in which we display that we are followers of Jesus is by our love for other Christians. The Apostle John put it very simply in his first epistle.
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 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. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:7-11).
Later on in that chapter, John continues his thoughts on love . . .
"If anyone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:20-21).
If you say that you love God and yet do not love that which you can see, you prove yourself to be a liar. That is one reason why I dislike all of the "I love Jesus but not the church" statements. For Jesus, it is clear. If you say you love Him, you prove it by loving others who love Him. What specifically does this mean?
It means that you care for other Christians. It means that you put their desires and longings as more important than yours. It means that 1 Corinthians 13 means something beyond a poem to be read at a wedding. It means that you are patient with other Christians. It means you are kind to them. It means you are not jealous of them. And so on . . .
This is always a tough one for me to answer, so maybe it will help you to put it in comparison to growth. Do you feel as though your love for other Christians has grown in the last year? Two years? I hope it has.