Hope for the Church (6)
Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love. 1 Corinthians 16.13, 14
Too much self-love
Part of the problem with the Corinthians was that they loved themselves more than they loved their neighbors.
They loved themselves so much that they vaunted their chosen group over the others, reserved the right to indulge in sinful practices, dragged their brethren into court, turned the Lord’s Supper into a kind of privately catered party for people with means, and used the worship of God as a stage for spiritual showing-off.
It’s no wonder the theme of love features so prominently in 1 Corinthians (1 Cor. 13).
As Paul pointed out, echoing Jesus (Jn. 13.35), the real measure of a Christian is the way that he loves others; if we have no love for others, then all our other advantages or achievements are just so many clanging cymbals, devoid of grace. Such self-denying love for others grows out of the love we have for God. But the Corinthians had turned their worship services into a festival of self-vaunting and self-indulgence, where love and fear of God were performed under the category, “Oh, yeah, that too.”
Only when the Corinthians renounced their out-of-control self-love and began to look at the world through the lens of love for God and neighbors would they be able to exercise the greatest gift and highest calling God could ever give.
The state of love
In Acts 6 we read the account of the first deacons. They were selected by the church in Jerusalem and ordained by the apostles to take care of a problem that threatened the integrity and continuity of the church. These spirit-filled men handled that situation with such love and efficiency that even their critics were astonished; for we read that a great company of the priests, when they witnessed this community resolving its differences in love, became obedient to the faith.
I wonder what the state of love is in America’s churches today. I’m sure that some exists, and I’ve seen many examples of it.
But can we say that we are doing everything in love? Is our love for God outflowing toward our neighbors, to meet their needs before our own? Can it be said of our congregations that they’re thinking more highly of the needs of others, serving and edifying others even at great cost to themselves?
What is the state of self-denying, sacrificial love in the churches of America today? If it were so pronounced, visible, and tangible would we see so many young people fall away from the faith once they leave their homes and go to college? Would there be so much division, so many scandals, such low levels of giving, and so little shepherding if we really loved others like Christ has loved us?
Each of us needs to ask himself: Am I doing everything in my life – at home, school, work, in the community – in the self-denying, sacrificial love of Jesus? Is my worship intended as an expression above all of love for God, or am I always just looking for something for me? Am I the first to reach for the towel and basin when needs come into view, or do I wait for others to do the dirty work? Do I readily sign up to be equipped for ministry opportunities that will put me in contact with people I can love? Do I see others with the eyes of Jesus?
Paul reminded the Corinthians – as he would remind us – that we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).
Now if we really had His mind, wouldn’t we have more of His love?
Love is the mark of the Christian and the goal of all Christian instruction (Jn. 13.5; 1 Tim. 1.5). Love is the greatest and most enduring Christian virtue (1 Cor. 13.8, 13). Love is the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets (Matt. 22.34-40). Increasing in love is the culminating mark of a healthy, growing church (Eph. 4.16). Preach and teach for love, brethren. Make disciples who love God and their neighbors, and who prove that love in all their daily walk with and work for the Lord. Let love be our standard and aim, and the world will know we are Christians indeed.
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Weekly Prayer for Revival
“There will always be love in the kingdom, it will abide forever in the unity of a harmonious brotherhood. Discord cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. One who has violated the love of Christ by faithless dissension cannot attain to the reward of Christ.”
- Cyprian of Carthage, Unity of the Catholic Church
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T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).