Do you love the people you go to church with?
These last couple days I’ve been thinking about this question in my own life. As a pastor, my job can be draining and tiring, especially because it’s working with students specifically. (Now, way too often we treat our students like a problem, speaking about them negatively in public situations. But, even if this is in jest, all it does is tell students we don’t believe in them.) That being said, it still takes patience. Patience that only God provides.
My job can also be draining when I hear the opinions of others about me. Again, even if it’s in jest, it can get to me.
The last part of my job that is difficult on me is that I see things in black and white. If Scripture teaches us and commands us to do something, I don’t see a way around it. I may not be perfect (this is obvious to me), but I fight against those things in my life that are sinful in the eyes of God.
What if you’re like me in one or many of these ways?
What if you’re like me when it comes to needing patience to be involved in church community?
What if you’re like me when it comes to getting hurt by the words of others?
What if you’re like me when it comes to caring about sound doctrine and theology and getting discouraged when people don’t follow it?
Let Philippians 1:9-11 be an encouragement to you.
Paul is writing from a prison cell to the church in Philippi, and in this passage he shares with them his prayer for them. .
And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. – Philippians 1:9-11
Paul was a man who had thick skin and a tender heart. He had the boldness to be speak out strongly against heresy (see Galatians) and yet also described himself as a caring father and nursing mother (see Thessalonians).
(Let’s be clear that this thick skin and tender heart on display in Paul’s life is also clearly on display in the life of Jesus.)
Anyway, Paul prays that the people in Philippi would continue growing in their love for each other. Not only that, he desires that their love for each other would be a wise love, a love that knows what people really need (what is superior), a love that is pure and holy in the eyes of Christ.
So the question I again have to face over and over is: Do I love my church community? Do I genuinely love them? I can say that I do, but I need this love to grow. We all do.
I’ve written at length in other blogs the pains that people have walked through, the immensely difficult situations that people have fought through at the hands of church members and leaders.
What can happen if we’re not careful is that we can become a people who tolerate each other. A people who see each other on Sundays but nothing more. A people who avoid others during the greeting time. A people who talk poorly about others behind their back. Honestly, the more I dive into Scripture, particularly the idea of how the church is to be set apart, the more that my heart breaks over our lack of love in many instances.
I know for a fact that there are people in our church who don’t speak with each other. I know there are times in my own heart where I feel the temptation to treat people like that as well. What does that show the outside community?
During a conversation at lunch today, a friend of mine said if she wasn’t a Christian, much of the behavior of churchgoers would prevent her from exploring the Christian faith. I heartbreakingly would be inclined to agree with her. We gossip, slander, argue, hate, mock, chastise, and choose to not extend grace. Guys, it shouldn’t be this way.
Please understand my heart. I’m not a man who seeks to degrade the church. The church is a beautiful community. My specific church I serve is one of the most generous churches I’ve ever seen. God is moving. God is teaching me so much. God is unifying our congregation. I just don’t walk in naivety when it comes to sin in my own heart and in our own pews.
We must speak strongly and soundly on certain matters. For me, I’m more willing to listen to those who are sticking it out in the trenches. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but rather to remind you my reader that I’m fighting from the inside. I see myself as part of the problem.
Back to the thrust of the post.
Ask God for love.
Ask God for a love that wisely understands what your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ need. Extend grace. Be forgiving. Seek reconciliation. Refuse to speak poorly about others. Be like Jesus. Plain and simple.
Where love of the brethren grows, the church is most like heaven and becomes attractive to the world. – Stephen Lawson
If you enjoyed this blog, received anything from it, please consider sharing it on your social media.
In His Name,