Churches inevitably face conflict, usually over our differences! History affirms this (e.g. the Crusades and the Reformation), and church attendees everywhere experience it. Magazine articles and academic research on organized religion, in the last two decades, discuss the tsunamis of change and subsequent conflict in churches over worship, leadership, and ministry methodology. (References and examples available on request). We might think conflict unique to the modern church, but a precursory reading of Paul’s letters shows he gave the early church plenty of instruction on love, forgiveness, and relationships. More thorough studies of these same letters suggest churches never escape conflict. Rather, the ‘fight of faith’ involves the fight to reflect Christ in our relationships without negating our different opinions and personalities, and despite our differences.
Some of the quintessential teaching for the local church family and relationships comes from the passages with ‘one-another’ commands. These commands reveal some of the glue that God’s Spirit plants within us to help us in the fight to preserve the unity of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:3). These commands also express the fruit God promises to build in the hearts and life of those who turn from the reign of sin to follow King Jesus!
The priority of loving one another comes through Jesus words to His disciples on the night before the cross, in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The urgency for love comes through Paul’s motive for personal discipline. He told the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 9:27), “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” Grace, as other churches, must pursue Christ-like love for another, lest after we spread the hope of Jesus to others, we find ourselves disqualified from our lack of love.
Pursuing the glory of God ‘in all things’ includes seeking His glory for the thoughts, words, and Facebook posts, we engage in with each other. I plan to write a few blogs to stir thinking and discussion around these one-another ‘glue passages’ (in no particular order). The goal: to pursue the joy of Christ-honoring conversations and relationships on Sundays and Wednesdays, in Grace groups and activities, in texts and e-mails. I hope you read and blog in response, especially to the questions posed. These thoughts grew out of prayer and study on relationships while on sabbatical. As pastor, I write not because Grace possesses particular relational weaknesses, but in eagerness to enjoy Christ-centered relationships. My faith and perseverance, as yours, depends in part on the love God gives us for one another. Enjoy, and I look forward to hearing from you!