The initial post in this series discussed the goal of our love for one another: holiness. It is one thing to say that our love should be directed toward another person’s Christlikeness, and it’s quite another to know exactly how we can love in that manner. Rather than dreaming up some complicated program to love others within your church, here are some simple suggestions of where you can start.
People of the Book
Christians confess that the Bible is a unique revelation from God. While creation itself attests that there is a Creator (Rom. 1:18-23), it is only in the Scriptures that we come to know the exact identity of our triune Lord. The Scriptures move us from the general idea that Someone did something to knowing who that Someone is. It is through this Book that we come to know and experience fellowship with God. As such, one way that we love people towards Christ is by encouraging them in the Scriptures.
It is striking to see the importance that the book of Proverbs places on our words. Words have the power to incite rage or cool a conflict, the power to give life or to destroy. Consider Proverbs 16:24, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Words actually impact those around us, not only spiritually, but also physically.
Is this mere hyperbole? No!
We are soul and body. Our spiritual health affects our physical health and vice versa. It only makes sense, then, that our words would have a multifaceted effect on our hearers.
Another verse, one that I was meditating on after being confronted about using my words to tear down instead of build up, is Ephesians 4:29. It reads, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
To love with our words is not to shower someone in the vague, therapeutic niceties that are prevalent in many contemporary Christian songs and an equal amount of Christian bestsellers. Words of grace are those that point others beyond themselves to the source of all grace. It is not to tell someone that they are awesome or that God will not give them more than they can handle. Rather, it is to give them promises of the good, sovereign, and wise God of the universe who is steadfast in keeping his promises.
This could take the form of memorizing a few of the promises in the Scriptures so that you will have a good word to share with those who are struggling. Or it could look like praying a promise for one of the families in your church and then sending them a text message that tells them you just spent time praying for them.
As a people of the Book, we know that we are conformed to the image of Christ by feasting on the word of Christ. Therefore, any Christ-centered love must be built upon his words. Let that guide the manner in which you love those around you.
One of the detrimental notions that have become widespread in today’s concept of worship is that it’s individualistic. For many Christians, the vertical component of worship has completely eclipsed the horizontal element; my relationship with God is what’s primary in worship, not my relationship with the people around me. This is one reason why church attendance is dropping. If I am only concerned with my own relationship with God, then I don’t really need to go where other Christians are gathering. I can worship from the comfort of my home, and there’s now an app for that. (Yes, that is sadly real. This one is not, but it is hilariously true.)
Gathering with our local church for corporate worship is not supposed to be an individualistic encounter. One often-neglected aspect of corporate worship is the fact that we are addressing one another. For example, Paul instructs the church at Colossae, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16). Did you catch that? One way that we encourage one another in Christ is through the songs that are sung in our corporate worship service.
This is a far cry from many modern worship services, where the band’s volume level blocks out the congregation’s voices and the low lighting makes congregants feel like they are alone. To some, I may sound a bit curmudgeonly about modern worship services, but that is not my intention. I merely believe pastors and worship leaders would do well to re-evaluate their worship service setup, everything from lighting to song selection, evaluating if it encourages or hinders congregational involvement.
Even observing the Lord’s Supper is a communal act. Yes, we are called to reflect on our own sin, but the Supper is a visible word that reminds us that, by taking the bread and the wine (juice if you’re Baptist), we are one body in Christ. It points us to the glorious reality that we are all joined in Christ, and by extension, we are all joined together. Likewise, it is a foretaste of when we will all feast with King Jesus in the new heavens and earth.
Therefore, one of the ways that you can love your brothers and sisters in Christ is by participating in corporate worship. It means, even if you can’t sing well, you sing the words loudly to the glory of God and for the good of your brother and sister. It means actively listening to the sermon so that the word does a work in you, and you, in turn, go encourage your brothers and sisters with that same word.
If you haven’t noticed already, there is nothing flashy about these suggestions. Neither is there anything particularly difficult about these suggestions. We are all equipped and empowered by the Spirit to love other Christians with a love that spurs them on in their faith. This is seemingly mundane work, but it is a work that will bear fruit for eternity.