Sometimes that sweet steeple can have some ugly underneath it. I think it’s safe to say it out loud. I don’t know too many who haven’t been disappointed by something ugly that has happened in church.
There will be disappointments within the walls or under the steeples of our churches, but we are witnesses to a watching world in how we respond to those disappointments.
When I say church, I mean the place where we meet on Sundays, not the world-wide church, the body of Christ made up of every believer.
I’ve experienced the two extremes of church life.
Total loss, heartache, hate and, dare I say, evil.
Total fullness, hearts healing, love and righteousness.
I have never before these last two years seen Satan so at work and, at the same time, Jesus so at work.
The church institution experience can be one in which we experience our greatest heartache and our greatest joy and healing.
I’m so thankful to the Lord for surrounding my family with people who love the Lord and long to love each other. As one who has experienced such extremes, I have a renewed sense of the importance of our individual heart attitudes and actions as we build church communities. These things determine so much in the grand scheme of what God is doing. They determine what the outside world sees as they look at believers and they impact fellow believers’ walks with the Lord, their faith and their experience of joy and peace as they live life with other believers.
John 13:35- “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
If we all of the sudden had the power to see inside each other’s hearts and minds, would we be able to call each other followers of Christ based on the love we have for others in the church?
My church is working through the book of 1 Peter. This has me thinking a lot about the church. The world-wide church and the smaller church community under the steeple or inside the walls. Our senior pastor recently said some things that have me thinking about our love for one another.
“We have been loved to become the best lovers. This is both a purpose and product of our salvation.”
Am I loving well?
1 Peter 1:22-23 – “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”
Loving each other earnestly. That can be hard. We’re different. Last week I wrote about our truest identity as living stones.
1 Peter 2:4-5 – “As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Stones are surrounded by each other as they are being built up into a house.
And we stones aren’t unfeeling if we are truly living stones among each other. While we experience the beauty of a world-wide spiritual house being built, giving and receiving the wonderful blessings of being in community, we’re also feeling our rough edges, scraping each other and striving to accept each other’s differences. The life of a Christian often plays out among other believers in a church where we experience true togetherness with each other and also have other stones in our midst that may not be living. Those who have not yet truly submitted their lives to Christ. Not only do we have the natural challenges of loving other Christians well, but we also do this in the midst of others who may not be submitting fully to this call to love the Lord and each other.
Our attempt to love each other must be, as the word says, earnest. Unfortunately, our approach to church and the relationships there are sometimes not earnest. We want it to be easy and if it isn’t, things can get ugly or we can just give up. That may mean leaving the church or it may mean going but not really being fully present.
More wisdom from the sermon on 1 Peter…
“This call to love earnestly uses the same word for earnestly as the one used to describe Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane the night his sweat dropped like blood.”
Am I loving my brothers and sisters in earnest? I wonder what it would look like if I loved earnestly to the same degree Jesus prayed the night he was betrayed…knowing what was to happen to him.
“Loving = earnest warmth directed by the Word of God.”
I want my care for the church to be directed by the Word of God…not my emotions, feelings, personal preferences and motivations.
It is on my heart to ask myself and my fellow Christians to consider our own earnest attempts in our individual church communities to love well.
Am I currently one to promote healing and love at church? Or am I a part of any level of divisiveness.
Do I support the leaders in my church when they make unpopular but biblical decisions?
Am I currently one who is moving away from certain brothers and sisters or earnestly loving them?
Am I currently one who is gossiping and slandering or one who is entrusting my situation and others’ situations to the Lord? How have I gone along with gossip or slandering by listening?
Do I currently truly appreciate each person and the way God has uniquely made them?
Am I currently assuming the best of my brothers and sisters?
Do I currently long in my heart for Christ’s power and control over my church or…do I long to have a piece of that?
A prayer for us from Jesus himself:
John 17:20-23- “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.“
Ending in grace…this last line in bold. If you are in Christ, do you grasp fully that the Father loves you to the same degree He loves Jesus? I pray that this empowers us to love Him with all of our heart mind, soul and strength and others as ourselves.
Linking up with these inspiring ladies this week: