Paul’s letter to the Church in Thessalonica encouraged them to love each other by following the example of Jesus. For the past year we have been part of a brand new Church plant…bringing people together from several Churches to form a new one. And today was our second service, with many new faces among us. So as I look at this verse, I’m reminded that for the past six months we’ve bonded together as a small group, but now the time has come that we must turn ourselves from our tight circle to welcome those coming in through the doors. For the agape love of Jesus can only be demonstrated by His Believers when we love others. And we can only be His hands and feet when our caring shows.
We are to continue to love one another as family, even when the family unit becomes dysfunctional. For we can choose our friends, but we’re born into a family…and family last forever. So, regardless how messy it may get, as Christians, we’re to love each other with a brotherly love out of the common bond of Jesus Christ. Because the commonality we have with each other is far stronger than any friction.
It’s easy to love those we have a natural affinity for. It’s not hard at all to love our family and those close to us. Nor is it difficult to love those we’re naturally attracted to. But what about those who are like sandpaper against our soul? What about the unlovely of the world…the disagreeable, repugnant, and unpleasant people who God has called us to love regardless? For Jesus didn’t add any exceptions when He told us to, “Love one another.” But when we have the love of God…the unconditional, Agape, love within, we are able to look beyond the exterior and love the unlovely.
In the Gospels, it tells us to love each other…whether it’s family, neighbors, or enemies…God’s word instructs us to love one another. For when we obey His word, His love is truly made complete in us. (I John 2:5) And by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, God’s love will manifest and be perfected in us as we display that love to others.
Even the early Church had problems with Church division, and here Paul was pleading with them to unite rather than split into factions. For if you think about it, if the local Church can’t come together and become one voice…how do we expect the world to follow suit? When Jesus called those first disciples, He told them to “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17) And if you look at the other meaning for the Greek word for “perfectly united”… it means to mend or repair broken nets. Now anyone knows you can’t catch fish with torn nets…so how can the Church expect to follow Jesus and be fishers of men when their nets are shredded with division and strife? We as a body of Believers need to become perfectly united together, and mend our nets.
We can’t force others into peaceful co-existence with us…we can only control how we react and behave around angry people. You know the ones…people with huge chips on their shoulders…always thinking the world is out to get them. It takes a conscious decision of the will on our part not to take the bait when attacked. It takes lots of deep breaths and determination not to lower ourselves down to that level…and sometimes, it takes just walking away for a few minutes to regain our composure and pray. “Lord, help me look past the angry hostility and see rather the hurt, the fear, the frustration. Allow me Lord to see this person through Your eyes and how I may show Your love to them.” Amen
It’s all about the relationship. In any kind of relationship hopefully there’s give and take… communication and mutual respect…connection and co-operation. But our relationship with the Lord is totally unique from any we have here on earth. God’s covenant relationship with us is binding and unbreakable…bought by the blood of Jesus Christ…while we were yet sinners. And His loving kindness and mercy towards us has nothing to do with how good we are…for it is a free gift. So think about it…the relationship we have with our Lord is really rather lopsided, with Him giving so much more to us than we could ever give back. This covenant of love that flows between God and us gives us a purpose in life… and as we commit our heart, soul, and strength to Him, we are ever being changed from the inside out.
You can see the love of God in His covenant relationship with His people. He wants only the very best for us and in return asks only for our obedience. For when we pay careful attention to our obligations to this covenant…primarily in our lifestyle and relationship with Him…others will sense the difference in us and ask questions. And those questions can lead to eternal answers.
Peter and the other Believers with him couldn’t dispute what they witnessed in the house of Cornelius. The Holy Spirit was super-naturally poured out on the Gentiles while Peter was still mid-sentence, telling them about Jesus. Now Peter could have questioned this…”But Lord, these people are very different from us! We don’t have anything in common with them. They’re a different race and culture from us! Are You sure You know what You’re doing?” Sometimes, as fellow-Believers, we can find ourselves asking the same questions of those we find different from us. Yes, we may not share a lot…but we do have a common denominator…faith in Jesus Christ. Together we are one Body…one Church…united in our trust of our Savior…joined together eternally by our faith.
As people waited in the crowded lobby, I over-heard a kind looking elderly gentleman ask the young lady seated next to him a rather probing question. She was bent over her phone, oblivious to anything or one around her, when he asked, “What would you be doing right now if you weren’t on your phone?” His tone of voice was gentle and reflective, which completely caught the young lady off guard and rendered her speechless. His question though got my mind whirling! How can we show the agape love of Christ to others when we’re folded up like a flower over our phones? How can we be Jesus to those around us when we totally disengaged from our surroundings…detached and indifferent? This verse says we are to be united in love which takes dedicated involvement and connection…not self-isolation and selfishness.