"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:2
Loving one another within the Body is a difficult task for us to execute. We all have different definitions of what love looks like, and they all tend to be geared towards whatever makes us feel good. Our selfishness pervades righteousness and we get lost in an unjust and unbiblical expectation.
I'll just start off with a personal note on the topic...where I tend to struggle with graciousness and love is when I am sinned against. Now don't get me wrong and start having visions of me taking my butcher's knife in hand and threatening to take matters into my own hands! I don't struggle with feelings of violence ;), but with immense sorrow that comes from a wounded spirit. I don't feel like loving the other person; instead, I feel like washing my hands of them and pretending they have fallen from off the face of the earth. I dwell on my pain, rather than just having a good cry and moving on with life. I think about it all day long and try to reason out why the other person saw fit to shove a blunt object right through the center of my heart. It becomes the center of my focus and I feel sullen and hopeless. This is so wrong for me to do! I am not loving the other person, because all I can focus on is myself. Instead of pitying them for being so blind to their sin, I get stuck on a "me me me" kick. I am learning that laying my burdens before the feet of Jesus Christ is all I can do to overcome my hurt. Being sorrowful over my hurt should not be the central point of the situation, but instead, it should be in dealing with the other person's sin...not even their sin against me, but their sin against God. Taking my eyes off of myself is something God is teaching me right now and He has shown me that it all stems from a lack of love within my own heart.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matthew 5:43-48
Another problem we can encounter when dealing with loving one another, is having a misconception of what love really looks like. We think that if our egos are not being padded and if people don't stand by us in our sin, we are somehow being unloved by them. But that is not real love at all! Real love cares enough about one another to confront a sin that will separate the other person from God. Not in a holier-than-thou manner, but in a spirit of Christian love that says, "I care enough about your soul to be as iron sharpening iron to you." When we are confronted, face to face, with our own sin, we tend to bristle and take our anger and feelings of injured pride out on the person through whom the correction was initiated. It isn't right at all! We are not only misinterpreting what love looks like, we are not loving the other person at all...in fact, we are demonstrating hatred towards them. Jesus says that hating our brothers is like murder...
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire." Matthew 5:21-22
We all tend to use love in the wrong way. For instance, we have no trouble loving ourselves! We wallow and sulk in our attempts to love ourselves, instead of giving of ourselves to love others. If it rubs us the wrong way, by golly, it must be wrong! We have so much trouble stepping outside of our comfort zones and denying ourselves for the benefit of others.
What is wrong with us? Why is it so hard for us to allow God to mold us into the image of His Son? Why do we resist and bristle against correction? Why do we hurt each other? Why are we so quick to stab each other in the back, instead of being long-suffering and loving each other?
We are called to be selfless and giving of ourselves. We are not called to only watch our backs, but sacrifice everything, even our very lives, for the sake of our brethren in the Lord.
"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:12-13
What would Jesus think of us, when we are not even willing to sacrifice our reputations or popularity for the sake of loving our fellow brothers and sisters within the Body? It's is a shame and something we should feel immensely grieved about.
We are meant to work together...to function as a family! But we don't--we act just like the world. We hate each other, fight, complain, gossip and seek each others' destruction. This is not love. This is not what we have been called to. We are not in a competition against one another! We are in a family with each other! It grieves my spirit to see the wickedness that is exercised against fellow heirs to the Kingdom--and from fellow heirs to the Kingdom! We need to remember that God views our brethren in the Lord as His children. And when we sin against each other within the Church, we are sinning against the children of the Lord of hosts. That should make us tremble and prick our hearts to contemplate the severity of our actions when we sin against one another.
Why can't we dwell in unity and put off our divisive spirits?
- "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." 1 Corinthians 1:10
- "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." Ephesians 4:1-6
- "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments. It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the Lord commanded the blessing — Life forevermore." Psalm 133
You see, the scriptures are very clear about how the Body is supposed to function. But we just can't accept it! We have to put our arrogance above what God's Word teaches us. God has been specific with us, but we somehow complicate it and make it difficult to understand. This is not what we are called to. When we embrace a worldly philosophy on relationships in general, and we drag it into the Church instead of practicing what the Lord has called us to, we strip the Church raw of all its beauty and potential. Instead of being focused on how we can be a light in this dark and darkening world, we have to fight for our lives... unfortunately, among our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We are so blind. We are to lock arm and arm and combat the wiles of the enemy together; not be each others' enemies.
It is a sad and grievous thing we have embraced. May God convict our hearts and lead us to this much greater and inexpressibly glorious way of life. We are capable of living in it...if we would just look past ourselves and look above to our omnipotent God and Savior.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13