Our Calling As A Church / Where Are We Headed As A Church?
1 Peter 1:22-2:2
An elderly woman died and left an interesting note in her will. Having never been married, she requested that there be no male pallbearers. In the instructions for her memorial service, she wrote, “They wouldn’t take me out when I was alive; I don’t want them to take me out when I’m dead.” The point is: Nobody should go through life without experiencing love!
One reason that there is a high turnover rate in ministry is that professing Christians often treat one another poorly. Many people do not respond graciously to those who attempt to help them. Someone said, “The hardest thing about ministry is having to be nice to mean people.” Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). God wants us to love people! Love is essential to every church that seeks to be obedient to God and to reach people with the gospel.
God commands us to love others. The two most common words for love in the New Testament are both used in 1 Peter 1:22: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love [phileo] of the brethren, love [agapao] one another fervently with a pure heart.” The believers Peter wrote to were practicing familial affection (phileo) towards each other shown by acts of kindness, common courtesy and helping one another. But Peter challenges them to demonstrate selfless sacrificing love (agapao) towards one another. This kind of love determines to do what is needful for the one who is the object of his love, regardless of that person’s merit or similarities to us. God is not like us yet chose to love us sinners despite our lack of merit because of who He is and how He could help us.
It is hard to love someone who is not like us and doesn’t share our interests. That is why we need the help of the Holy Spirit. We need the power of God to love someone who does not love us in return. In phileo love we try to please the one we love. But in agape love we try to help the one we love. We often think, “I can’t relate: I’m older or younger or I haven’t been through that.” The real question is, “Does this person have a need?” When all others leave us, our family takes us in!
How can we show love to our church family practically? We can help when a new baby arrives, serve someone during a health or financial crisis, care for them when they have lost a family member, help them with a move. Some folks have moved here away from their family. Some, because of their faith in Christ, may be estranged from their family. You’re their family now!
We have the capacity to love. God never gives us a command without enabling us to obey it. We gain the capacity to love by the aid of the Spirit (verse 22) and the new birth, or salvation, (verse 23). One of the ways Christianity is different from all other religions is that salvation is the starting point. In all other religions, salvation is the goal. In Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam, salvation is the end, not the beginning. But Christians receive salvation as a free gift and from that moment on, the believer has the capacity to develop a sacrificial love for others. First John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.”
Love and acceptance are different concepts, but the distinction between them is often blurry. God loves us unconditionally, but accepts us only on His terms. We do not have to qualify for God’s love by our attractiveness, birth or merit—his love is unconditional. But God accepts us only on the basis of faith in the shed blood of Christ and His resurrection from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10)—his acceptance is conditional. Likewise, we love all people, but we don’t accept or endorse their sin. In fact, sometimes we may have to reject their behavior and refrain from fellowship. If we are not careful in making this distinction, we will make many relationship errors. We should love teenagers unconditionally but that does not mean we tolerate rebellious behavior. Hebrews 12: 6 says, “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.” In I Corinthians 5, Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for tolerating sin in one of the member’s lives. He told them if they loved the man, they would put him out of the assembly until he repented. The biblical practice of love will at times require discipline and punishment.
So God commands us to love one another sacrificially and He also enables us to love in that way. As a church family, we must exhibit this agape love toward one another. How will you love your fellow believers today?