Over the last year I have gotten the opportunity to love on a group of junior in high school girls through my church. Spending time with them has taught me so so much. It’s taught me how to be better at snapchat. It’s taught me certain aspects of style I don’t understand. But most importantly, its taught me to look into my own ministry experience and give them words I wish someone would have given to me at that age. This week’s reading in 1 Thessalonians 4 reminded me of one of those things. Take a look with me and hear the words I hope I communicate to these sweet girls, myself as I walk with Jesus, and every other person who claims Him alone. We can all love each other better. But here is how we often do it instead…
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Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
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I’ve noticed a huge problem we tend to encounter in the church. You see, we teach about love every day. We say “love your neighbor as yourself.” We sign up for ministries and service work that extends love to our communities. Yet we often times forget what it means to love the Body.
The Body. The Body I refer to is not the body you wear in which the world tells you to be confident. It is not the body of your vehicle you either love or hate depending on its condition. It is the Body of believers. It is the compilation of those who have trusted in Jesus as savior. The Body He is using to fulfill His outpouring of love onto humanity.
Love one another.
Over and over again, Scripture pleads this, begs that we take these words seriously. But do we really? Or is our love an imposter kind of love. A kind of love that we would show to any other stranger. A kind of love that we show but do not feel, hear of but do not know, or fake but do not embrace.
You see, Paul describes the love we should have for one another as brotherly. He demands that we must know exactly how to show it. For has God not shown that love to us already? Has He not bestowed the kind of endearment that quietly and humbly takes the fall. That gives and asks nothing in return. That exists to serve rather than be served.
Yet instead of living quietly, we use one another to live boastfully. “Well Savannah struggles with this sin,” we say to make our own sins seem small. “Rachel hasn’t shown up to church in a month,” we gossip that others might notice her flaws.
“I have a prayer request.” We often follow this phrase with the bitter spreading of rumors.
The constant desire to demoralize others as we edify ourselves.
Sisters. Brothers. Where is our love for one another when our goal is to simply build our own name? Where is our love for one another when we spend more time meddling in someone else’s sin than asking Jesus to sanctify our own.
Our goal has to be to build: to build the Church. It has to be to work on ourselves, to call out sin with love and truth in person rather than with malice and pride in public. It is to fervently pray that our brothers and sisters are being used well as the arm so that we might be the least bit functional as a finger tip.
I once brought a friend to church with me. We went through the whole shebang. Sunday School, coffee, church service. When we got in my car, my friend looked at me and said, “Whew. I have never heard so much gossip in my life. That was interesting.” My heart both broke in two and came out of my chest. Oh how I longed to hear him say that The Lord spoke to him. That The Lord stroked His face with the love of His children. Instead, he was turned off. He was confused by way we lived. He didn’t want to be the center of the gossip. So he didn’t show his face again. How stupid I felt! How embarrassed I was to have represented my Savior’s love so poorly.
My dear friends, we are being watched from the outside.
Let us embody the kind of love we have been shown. Let us speak the same songs we sing. Let us love. Not the comfortable kind of love. Not the fake kind of love. The real, raw, genuine, “I care about you no matter how you treat me” kind of love. After all, did Jesus not die for us even after we spat in His face? Did He not hold us after we denied and mocked Him? He still chose to love us. And Lord knows we deserve none of it. He chose to intercede. He chose to say, “I don’t care what they did. I want them anyways. I want them to be seen for my purity rather than their sin.”
So next time we are tempted to say hi to someone in church, let us ask them how they really are. Next time we are tempted to tell a telling prayer request, let us first pray for our own heart’s purity. Next time we criticize someone for not showing up to be with the body, let us first ask how the body has been treating them. Let us seek to build bridges where they have been broken. To love where we have shown malice. To forgive where we are hurt most.
Let us give that love away, singing His praise alone all through the process and recognizing that it is not by our own power but His alone.
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1 Thessalonians 4 man. It has so much beautiful theology. So much deep and hearty understanding that we so desperately need to hear on a daily basis. I only have time to cover a small bit of this wisdom, but I implore you to dig into this chapter today and read some of its commentary from John Piper.