CONQUER HATRED WITH LOVE
In the last few weeks, we have looked at a some elements that tear down the church – conflict, envy, and offence. At the same time, we have uncovered some mighty weapons with which we can conquer these – forgiveness, identity, and thanksgiving. The ultimate underlying cause and outcome of this spiritual battle is seen in whether a person hates or loves the church. I love the church. I know her flaws, I still get frustrated by things, but intrinsically, and passionately, I love her. I love her because Christ loves her. If my Lord whom I love, loves the church, how can I not love her?
[1 John 4:20] – “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?”
There was a time when I didn’t really understand how to love the church. I wanted the church to be the beautiful bride that Christ designed her to be, but I was hurt by and angry about the many flaws I could see. I prayed, and I served, but my heart was not satisfied and many years later, I realised that I had actually developed a hidden resentment for the church. After this revelation, I saw God do some incredible miracles, and completely restore people and lives, that I had subconsciously given up on. It was clear to me then that God does not give up on His church, that He passionately pursues her, and that He ferociously loves her.
What are some fruits which reveal our heart for the church? Do we really love her? Here are some thoughts.
Fruits of hating the church
One clear evidence of a heart that hates the church, is a tendency towards division. Some of the thoughts or phrases that might be heard include:
- “There is no one who really knows God anymore.”
- “The church is thriving in so many places, but here it is dying.”
- “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.”
- “Church is just an institution.”
It is not these thoughts in themselves that are the issue, but rather what these thoughts might reflect. Is it uplifting to the church of Christ or to steadfast believers to tell them that there is no fruit of their labour in their city? Can we make that judgement? Yes, we can have knowledge of God and relationship with Him apart from church, but it says something about our relationship with God if we do not want to be involved with the church. If we truly know God, we should desire His church just as He does. [Galatians 6:20] says,
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
Refusing to be associated with, or involved with the church shows that we are unwilling to stand for how faith, and shows our rejection of God’s values. How many times does the Bible mention fellowship, discipleship, honouring one another? The church is flawed, and it still makes mistakes, but to despise the church, is to despise Christ’s bride.
Perhaps instead, we should focus on building up the church and encouraging one another to abide in Christ, who is the cornerstone. By doing this, we place the focus on the kingdom of God, and not on condemning one another. Judgement, and discernment, is extremely important so that we discern truth from falsehood. However, we also need to be aware of our attitude towards the church. We want to labour for the holiness of the church, but will we do it with an attitude of love, or condemnation?
Fruits of loving the church
How do we know we are acting in love for the church? What are the fruits of this? [2 Thessalonians 5:9-14] has this exhortation:
“For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. And we urge you, brethren, to recognise those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.”
If we are to love the church, we must understand who the church is in Jesus’ eyes. 2 Thessalonians shows us that God appointed us for salvation. The church consists of those who have accepted this invitation to live together with Christ, and God desires that all people would be a part of His church – His people, His body, His beloved.
The passage then expands on how we should behave as members of the church, those living together with Christ. Are we loving the church as Christ has called us to?
Edify one another
Do we regularly encourage each other? Do we encourage the church?
Do we affirm each other in character and in works? Do we speak words of affirmation?
Honour one another
Do we submit to the leadership? Do we pray for others, for our leaders, for our churches?
Do we show appreciation for those who serve, and for those who fellowship with us?
Forgive one another
Are we peacemakers? Do we forgive and reconcile?
Is the church divided by quarrels, or united in spirit?
Stand for truth
Can we discern truth? Are we able to speak correction with grace?
Do we have courage to speak the truth in love?
Raise up those in need
Is there any compassion for the weak, for those who are struggling through tough times?
Do we take action to feed the needy, and clothe the naked?
Be patient with all
Do we persevere in faith? Do we have a kingdom view that sees the promise of restoration
that God speaks over our world, and over each person? Do we continue to contend for salvation?
One last question – can we do any of this by ourselves? Can we be “church” by ourselves? I believe that salvation is personal, but that a life lived for God will manifest fellowship. If the Spirit of God in us contends for His kingdom, and for the righteousness of His bride, the church, we must also desire this. So, let us meet together, love the church, and get ourselves ready for the coming for our Lord!
[Hebrews10:24-25] – “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”