Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sincere Love - Part 3

The Action of Love

#1 Have a family-level commitment to everyone in church

“Love one another with brotherly affection.”

NASB “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...”

The type of love Paul speaks of here comes from two words of the – phileo word group. You will recognize the second word used here. We know of the city in America referred to as “the city of brotherly love” – Philadelpia. That is the word Paul uses, although the word has less to do with “brotherly love” exclusively and more to do with “familial love,” the kind of general love that family members share for one another.

The first word Paul uses is an adjective, used in a verbal kind of way: “be tenderly affectionate; loving; kindly affectionate” to one another. So, what you end up with is a phrase that goes something like this:

“Be kindly affectionate unto one another in familial love.”

Here the image of the church as family is seen yet again. How do you relate to your family? In an age of broken homes, divorce, separation, no family meals, etc – many do not have a firm grasp of what this means. But the easiest way to describe it is to suggest that you think of the best family you know – or your ideal of the best family – and then relate that to the life of the church.

The easiest way to describe it is to suggest that you think of the best family you know – or your ideal of the best family – and then relate that to the life of the church.

The best family will have unique relationships with each member; marked by loyalty, trust, inter-dependence, inseparability, sharing, common goals, shared values, etc. These are the characteristics then of what every relationship in the church of Christ ought to be like. It is rigid loyalty bathed in kind affection.

This means a strict avoidance of all things evil in the family. Division, divorce, hatred, envy, jealousy, anger, sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions... these things are to be shunned and despised in the family of God.

Abhor what is evil! Let there be an unswerving loyalty to one another such as is seen in the best of families – cling to good.

#2 Be the first to find good in everyone in church

The second command is a little more difficult to figure out.

NASV: “give preference to one another in honor...”

ESV: “outdo one another in showing honor.”

One is more passive – the other more proactive. I think Paul is suggesting the second.

The first has the idea of Phil 2:3 “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” The second has the idea of 1 Cor 13 “Love... believes all things, hopes all things...”

The second seems to be what Paul is driving at here. He is saying: “Be the first to honour others.”

In other words, always be on the lookout for good in others... and tell people, not just the person, what you see as soon as you see it. It is proactive, deliberate, purposeful!

If I could build a Biblical case for this, I would have you think through the New Testament letters and how the authors were quick to find evidences of grace in the lives of church members. They were hunting for it. Like a dog for the neighbour’s cat!

Romans 1:12 “that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine.”

Romans 15:14 “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, [1] that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.”

Colossians 1: 3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints...

1 Corinthians 1: 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

They were quick to find good – even when there was not a lot to find!

We need to be less ashamed of seeing God at work in each other! I think we do not commend one another enough. Perhaps we are not good at this because we do not frame our statements in a God-centered way! We need to learn to say things correctly – so our words match our theology – and that will free up our lips: “I see this [action] of God in your life.” “When you do [insert blank] it brings glory to God who has made you and equipped you to do this so well.”

This is not some form of building up pride in each other!

Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

We need to be fanning the gift of God in one another – here is how I see God working through you. Here is how God used you in my life in particular.

And this mindset, of seeking to be the first to give honour, will create an atmosphere of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Be united to good [in each other].

So love abhors all forms of evil in church relations and is intimately and happily wed to all forms of good in church members!

This is real love – non-counterfeit love – genuine love – sincere love. Like all things required of us by God, it requires Jesus.

“We love BECAUSE He first loved us.” - You cannot expect to love if you have not been loved. You must be born again.

You cannot expect love to come naturally. Your flesh is opposed to it. The Devil is fighting against you when you try to do it. Your spirit may be willing, but you are weak. It will take planning, self-sacrifice, humility, patience, and the Holy Spirit!

“What’s love got to do with it?” Everything!

And this Sincere Love will change the world – as genuine Christians shed all forms of hypocrisy and counterfeit spirituality and live Spirit-dependent, Jesus-pleasing, God-glorifying lives of love.

May He make it so!