Love one another.

Something has been on my mind lately that has made me really frustrated and sad and angry all at the same time.  The Bible talks about how, once we become followers of Jesus, we’ll face opposition from the world.  Okay, fair enough, we’ve been warned.  But it seems like there has been a lot of fighting and grumbling and even opposition within the church body as a whole.  Whether it’s over “little” things like building size and location or over big things like whether or not something is a Biblical truth.  Or the condemnation of entire congregations or pastors….

This breaks my heart.

While I won’t claim to know all the details of what’s happening in every case I will say this about the church as a whole: every single one of us has screwed up.  We’ve all made some bad (even some very bad) decisions.  Some are just that; bad choices with unfortunate results.  Others are sinful choices which end up causing the suffering of ourselves and others.  But when we see another person sin and that sin comes to light, are we to rejoice?  Should we shout with joy when someone falls from grace?  Should we stand in our kitchens or sit down over coffee and slander those we’ve never met because we have an opinion of them based on what we’ve “heard”?  There’s a word for that: GOSSIP.  And God condemns that all over the place in Scripture. (See Romans 1:29b-32, 1 Timothy 5:12-13, Proverbs 16:28… seriously good verses on the subject).

I read an article by a man who was wounded emotionally by a church leader and I was so profoundly impacted by what he said to the person who hurt him: “I forgive you and I am praying for you because you’re my brother.”

As brothers and sisters in Christ should we not desire the absolute best for one another?  And by “best” I don’t mean worldly wealth or whatnot, I mean the best for us according to God’s desires.

Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you LOVE ONE ANOTHER as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).

How did Jesus love us?  Completely.  Sacrificially.  Unreservedly.  He forgave us though we don’t deserve it at all.  He gave His life for us in an incredibly gruesome and painful way, taking our place.  Unbelievable.

Did He get mad at sin?  Most definitely.  Especially the sins of the Pharisees (teachers of the Law) who were self-righteous about their faith.  He called them a “brood of vipers”, for heaven’s sake.  But He died for them too because even though they knew the Law and followed it down to the letter, their hearts were still filled with pride and judgement and they NEEDED A SAVIOR.  Like me.  Like you.

When we’ve been wronged, hurt or sinned against, especially by another believer, Jesus doesn’t say we can’t feel hurt or that our wounds aren’t real.  He doesn’t blow special “Jesus Dust” over them and heal our hurts right away and make everything peachy.  Even Jesus bore the scars of His wounds in His resurrected body (see how Thomas identified Him in the upper room… by the nail holes in His hands).  Pain is real and suffering is real and so are the effects of forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily when we do not have love that goes before it.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

–Colossians 3:13, NLT

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

— Matthew 5:44-45a

If we pray for those who’ve wronged us, (not vengeful ones like: “Dear God, I pray that this person would suffer for what they’ve done to me! I hate them and you should too!“) lifting them up before the Lord and asking that He reveal Himself and His will to them, that they would choose what is right, we will begin to develop a love for them instead of bitterness.  The first step in forgiving someone: Learning to love them.  Forgiveness brings healing, as it gets rid of bitterness and hate, which eat away at the soul and only affect the person harboring them.

But if we’ve not been wronged and are instead participating in idle chatter about the “sinner”?  Do we not then also need forgiveness?  What example is our behavior setting to those who don’t know the goodness and grace of God personally?  Aren’t we then just like the world?  How are we to share God’s love when we rip each other apart?  (“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”–John 13:35)  Who don’t encourage and pray for one another respectfully when enduring trials?  (“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”–Hebrews 3:13)  Who actually enjoy when someone falls simply because they teach something the others don’t agree with? (Side note: many don’t like what gets taught from the pulpit because it’s not PC, but the Word of God is the WORD of God and we do not have the privilege of altering it because we don’t like it. “For I am the LORD, I change not…”– Malachi 3:6).

You guys, we need to have an attitude check.  I’m not saying this is true for everyone, but for a lot of us it is, including myself.  Are we leaving the fragrance of Christ wherever we go?  Are we praying for and encouraging one another for real? (Not just saying, “I’ll pray for you!” and forgetting about it).  Remember, “The effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much.” (James 5:16).  What are we accomplishing?  What AREN’T we accomplishing by being divided that we COULD if we were united?!

Let’s pray for one another as a whole.  Let’s lift up the WHOLE CHURCH (I’m talking cross-denominational, global, the whole shebang!) before the Lord and ask Him to bring us together and to desire His best for us and, more importantly, for Him.  We need His help to get back on track.

Let’s not get caught up in these little things and instead remember who we’re here to represent: Jesus. 

Let’s represent Him well.

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