A little over a week ago, I was reflecting on a message I’d heard about “loving like Jesus”. As we worry about how we’re known in this life… what our legacy looks like… there’s only one thing that should really matter to the Christian about how we’re known.
That we’re known by our love.
There are obviously natural questions leading from that. And it’s easy to get tripped up focusing on OUR definition of love or culture’s definition of love… Satan corrupts so many things.
But what does love look like? What should the church look like if it’s to be known by love?
What instructions might God have for us in that regard?
While Scripture speaks volumes to that point, the following passage in 1 Thessalonians is a pretty great start. In it, Paul had some very specific instructions for the church.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-22
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Let’s go down the list we see here in Scripture.
One way Christians show love is by having respect for the spiritual leaders God places in their lives. That includes pastors, elders, teachers, parents… all those who have Biblical responsibility to help us walk with Him. We should hold them in high regard out of love, not obligation, doing whatever we can to lessen the leadership burden they carry. Respect is a two-way street; the same things should be true of church leaders in regard to those entrusted to their care.
2. Keep the peace
Love causes us to put the needs of others before our own. Love causes us to hurt when others hurt. Love enables us to see the viewpoints of others. When conflict comes? Our efforts toward peace show just how much we love like Jesus. A church constantly embroiled in conflict cannot clearly demonstrate Christ’s love.
3. Patience with others
Here in Scripture, Paul writes to the church in practical terms about the patient outpouring of love. “Admonish the idle.” “Encourage the fainthearted.” “Help the weak”. Christians that love will care about the needs of others, and will patiently walk with them through whatever circumstances they find themselves in. A church that loves should be willing to do the same.
4. Treating others better than they deserve
True Christ-like love enables us to treat others well, no matter the circumstances. When we have been wronged or mistreated? We love. When we are disliked or hated by another? We love. Practically speaking, this means we don’t speak ill of others. We don’t gossip. We don’t seek revenge. We don’t seek to hurt. We return love, whether it’s deserved or not. The church should be known by it’s love for undeserving people.
Paul instructs the church at Thessalonica to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances”. What gives us the ability to do all these things? Contentment. An understanding that God’s provision is enough. That His will is perfect. That He is ultimately in control of all things in our lives. Contentment means that we put aside envy of others and be thankful for what God has given us. That we accept circumstances that aren’t exactly ideal without complaining because He is sovereign. That we set aside selfish preferences. That we seek God’s will in all things, because we find peace and joy in following Him.
Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” In other words? The church should be obedient. The church should honor God’s word and instructions. Ideas and plans should be tested according to Scripture, and truth should be held onto tightly.
7. Don’t be evil
The final command given to the church in this passage? “Abstain from every form of evil.” Yes, Google’s internal slogan is Scriptural, and it’s also a very practical (if very general) command for us. Evil has no place in the life of a Christian, and it’s a characteristic that should never mark the church.
I know this is a simplistic summary of a deep topic.
Then again, should love really be a complex matter?
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