We have spent time in one of the most well-known scripture passages in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which tells us what love is and what it is not. Now that we have reminded ourselves of what love is, how do we apply it in our relationships within our church family?
We are told multiple times in scripture that we are to love one another as God has loved us. In fact, Jesus said the second greatest commandment is “Love your neighbour as yourself”. Matthew 22:39 (NLT).
John 13:34-35 (NLT) says:
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
What are practical ways to love well within the church? Again, we look to scripture for direction.
Colossians 3:13(NLT) says:
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
We must forgive one another for our transgressions and faults, just as the Lord forgives us. We are all sinners. We all make mistakes. We all have days where our temper is short, where our patience runs out, and where we speak before we think. We have all said or done things that we deeply regret. But Jesus died so that we can be forgiven for our sins. He sacrificed himself so we can be saved. Therefore, we have no right to withhold forgiveness from our brothers and sisters.
Forgiving someone who has hurt or wronged us is difficult. It can take time. It involves reconciliation, and sometimes confrontation, which we tend to shy away from. Most people do not like conflict, so we find it easier to pretend everything is fine. But when we don’t offer forgiveness, it builds bitterness and resentment.
Forgiveness is an opportunity to show God’s love and mercy, a love and mercy that is so incredible! It’s healing, it’s kind, it’s compassionate, and it is a testament to the mighty power of our Lord.
Scripture also commands us to show kindness and tenderness to one another. It tells us not to judge or condemn each other.
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37 (NLT)
Do not judge or condemn others. How many of us are guilty of this? I know I am. We are often quick to judge and quick to speak words behind the back of another. People love gossip; they love a scandal; they love to feel superior. But scripture is very clear. We are not to pass judgment on one another. That is only for our Heavenly Father to do.
Scripture tells us to be other-centred, to regard one another as more important than ourselves. We should be humble in our interactions and not selfish. We must not be conceited. We must look out for the needs of others.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT)
The Bible is clear about how we are to treat our brothers and sisters. So, how do we apply these instructions in practical ways? How do we care for and love the people in our church?
Let me list some ideas I have for this and I encourage you to write down your own too:
- Visiting/Calling elderly members of the church who live alone.
- Buying groceries for a family who is struggling financially.
- Making food for someone who is sick.
- Inviting a new church member over for dinner.
- Hosting or leading a Bible study in your home.
- Talking to someone who has hurt you; often things are simple misunderstandings.
- Welcoming every person who walks into the church, no matter how different they may act or look.
- Providing a listening ear to someone who needs to talk.
- Giving a hug.
- Volunteering to serve.
Many of the above apply to a non-pandemic world when we are going to church and not practising social distancing. I do have faith we will be back to that again. However, given that we are in the current Covid era, here are some options for that:
- Call elderly and single members of the church who may be feeling quite lonely.
- Deliver groceries to the doorstep of the elderly who fear going out in public.
- Leave meals on the doorstep of anyone who is sick.
- Play a game together online or over video chat.
- Start an online Bible study or book club.
- Have a coffee & chat time on FaceTime/Zoom/Google Meet
- Buy a grocery gift card for someone who has lost their job due to the pandemic
I encourage you, especially in these Covid times, to reach out to each other often. Pray for each other. Offer support. Listen. The are so many ways to show one another love.
Love one another as the Lord loves each one of us.