Part 3: Love His People
Saturday 1 Apr, 2023
The local church is a place that has always fascinated me. At its most basic level the church is a collection of people from different backgrounds, cultures, countries and languages all gathered together to praise God, to fellowship with one another, and to grow together as we are pointed to Jesus through the teaching of His Word. The thing that has always intrigued me is that the local church is a mixed bag of people but at the same time a group of people that are united in their love for Jesus and their love for one another.
As we’ve journeyed together through the 4 key loves of the Christian life, I hope you’ve been encouraged and challenged. Here is a reminder of the four loves; love the Lord, His Word, His people and the lost. As Christians we should be growing in these four loves as we grow in Jesus. This month we come to the third love, the love for God’s people, that’s the church. So, what does it look like to love each other, as the Lord’s people?
We could list a number of things and plenty of practical applications for us to engage in every day, but for the sake of time and space, I want to highlight three practical things that we can do to grow in our love for the Lord’s people.
1. Know each other
This might sound obvious, I’d hope that we all know who our church family are, but I don’t just mean that we’re on first name basis with our church family, I mean to know what our shared identity is. The global Christian Church is a global family all connected by Jesus and our identity as children of God (Romans 8:16). That’s why you can be in the presence of another Christian, from another country who doesn’t speak your language and still there is a connection between you because of your shared identity in Jesus.
Based on that shared identity, we are called to love one another. Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Ephesians 2:19 says that all Christians are members of the household of God. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements and that the church is a perfect place, but it means that we are a family. In every family there will be good times and times of struggle, there will be joys and there will be sorrows, but our relationship with one another is underpinned by the deep love that we have for each other in Jesus.
So we need to know who every Christian is in Jesus and we need to grow in our love for them. Seeing our brothers and sisters through God’s eyes will lead us to a greater love for them. But very practically it is of course also important to invest time in getting to know the people you sit next to on a Sunday. It means spending time with each other outside of organised church meetings and events too. You love people more when you spend time with them and you love people more when they open up to you. And this doesn’t just mean people that we find easy to talk to or are fun to be around. It includes everyone who walks through our doors. As a family, we don’t gather as separate individuals who keep our day-to-day lives secretive and separate from our church life, we combine the two.
One of the best ways we can grow in our love for each other as a church is to be open with one another, to share our joys and our sorrows, to share what we’re learning about Jesus and where we need to grow. Getting to know each other requires vulnerability and it requires us all to be sensitive to one another as we grow together in our relationship (both privately and corporately) with Jesus.
2. Speak truth to each other
Ephesians 4 is all about how we as Christians we live out our identity in Jesus, and verses 11-16 are specifically about how the local church should be acting and living together in order to grow together in maturity and unity under Jesus. Ephesians 4:15 says “…speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
As Christians who have the desire to grow in our Christlikeness every day, we should be speaking the truth in love to one another, that in turn will help us grow in our love for each other as well.
Speaking the truth in love requires us to be involved in each others lives, to know how we can support one another, and for us to be grounded in God’s Word so that we can spur each other on in our walk with Jesus.
The truth that we need to hear won’t always be easy, especially if it’s a rebuke for sinful behaviour or waywardness in our lives, but the way it’s communicated and the heart that it comes from matters. It’s easy to tell the difference between someone who likes to rebuke others and someone who genuinely doesn’t want to see a brother or sister in Christ get hurt by sin in their life. As a church family, we should be speaking truth to one another. That means pointing each other to God’s Word on a regular basis and encouraging one another as we all strive to maturity, but also reminding each other of God’s call on our lives to be holy (1 Peter 1:16).
3. Pray for one another - Ephesians 3:14-19
Sometimes it’s hard to know what to pray for people isn’t it? We pray that God would “bless people” and help them in certain circumstances, but how do we pray for our whole church family? Thankfully in Ephesians 4:14-21 we have a prayer that Paul prayers for the Ephesian church and I think that this is a wonderful prayer that we can be praying for each other. Praying the following things for each other will increase our love for one another because we’re showing and interest in each others spiritual walk with Jesus. Paul prays for:
- Empowered lives by the Spirit of God (v16)
- That Christ may permanently dwell in our hearts (v17)
- That we may grasp the love of Christ (v18)
- That we may be filled with the fullness of God (v19)
Those are big prayers, aren’t they?! But Paul doesn’t pray them for this church so that they seem great, or that they become famous. Paul prays these things so that in the life of that church and in the life of every believer God would be glorified. Imagine if we prayed those big prayers for every member of our church and asking that in our lives (privately and corporately) God would be glorified. I think we would be a church that continues to grow in our love for one another and grows in our love for the global church as we keep our focus on Jesus and building His Kingdom.
Here’s a challenge for us all this month, why not take these three short steps and put them into practice in our church family and let’s watch as our love for one another grows and we continue to become the church that God wants us to be; a church that builds itself up in love, in dependence on Jesus as we all do our part as we have been gifted (Ephesians 4:14-16)