Getting People to Relate Biblically with Each Other.
Getting them to “love one another”.
by Missionary David R. Cox
Let’s start by depositing a principle of salvation. You must love Christ in order to be saved. 1 John speaks of our salvation relationship with God. Salvation is a relationship with God, not a work which we do (like praying the sinner’s prayer).
John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
In this relationship that we have with God, there is a very important principle. We must be like God in order to one day live for eternity with God. Think for a moment, what really is salvation? Is it not being with God (wherever He is)? We die and our souls go to heaven with God, forever more to be in the presence of God, and live with God.
2 Corinthians 5:6 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord:
So salvation is living and having fellowship with God wherever He is for eternity. We understand that for now, heaven is above somewhere, and one day God will end the drama of the history of this world, have a great judgment, and from there, God will empty hell (the pit), judge those people and throw them into the lake of fire. As for us, God will bless us with rewards in these end time events. But in the plans is a total destruction of the heavens and earth, and a remake by God of the heavens and earth. At that point “heaven” (where God lives) will come down to earth, and will be the “new Jerusalem”.
But our point is salvation is living with, getting along with God. God provides a means (called Sanctification) for our changing our spirits, attitudes, and way of thinking and acting. This process begins at salvation, and is terminated in our going to heaven, or if we are alive when the Lord returns for us, then.
But salvation has to be defined as a loving of Christ, our Savior. 1 John presents a treatise on loving God. Here it is necessary to run through the teaching of John on love in order to understand how this fits into our salvation. But before we do, we need to reaffirm a fact of salvation. Nobody is saved by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Keep this in mind as you read through the following discussion, and remember that however we understand this teaching on love, it has to fit in with the fact that works do not save us, but faith in Jesus Christ.
1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
God makes it an either or decision, either we love God or we don’t. If we love the things of the world (anything there) then we do not and cannot love God.
1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Moreover God defines Himself with the explanation that “God is love”. The essence of God is love. What is love then? Love is to desire and effect good in someway to somebody else by your sacrifice and effort. You make something good happen in their lives. This is love, this is God, and every single child of God (saved person) will have this trait of God.
How do we do this then? How do we “love other”?
1 John 2:5 But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
John gives us a clear mark of a Christian here. Those who are truly saved, keep the word of God. Those who are saved love because that is the essence of God, and all who embrace God, who is a God whose essence is love, will in turn also have love, manifest love, and desire to show forth love through their lives.
To clarify this a little more, what is salvation?
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
So salvation is defined as God loving us so much that God the Father does the unthinkable, horrible thing that no father really wants to do. He offers the life of his own flesh and blood so that we may be saved. The horrible price that God paid to procure salvation for us is based in his love towards us. Seeing then this horrible, great, personal sacrifice of God to save us, we must respond to that love action in one way or another. We must embrace that love action, (having faith in Jesus Christ), or we must despise that love action and refuse to let it move us. We believe with faith and confidence in God as someone who truly loves us, or we discount the action as not so moving, not so important personally to us. There are no other options here.
1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
In this reception and embracing of the God of love, we must take on in our moral character the character of God. What is God’s character? Love. We must love, and be saturated with love or we know nothing of God, and we despise God’s attribute of supreme love for us. Refusing to love is to desire heaven but refuse to reflect the character of the God of heaven, which will land you in hell.
1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
Here John lays down the principle that ALL true Christians are people who show two things strongly in their lives. (1) they obey God, and (2) they love their brethren. Here we see a refining of the concept of love and focusing on love of others, but principally love of your Christian brethren.
1 John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
Salvation it would seem is that the love of God is “perfected” or made mature and fruit bearing within us.
1 John 4:15-17 Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
Nobody can claim to be saved if they do not manifest this love of God in their lives. Seeing the love of God towards us in sacrificing Jesus Christ for our salvation has to have a visible, tangible impact on our lives such that this love works its way out in actions and attitudes. Otherwise we cannot claim to be part of God, nor children of God.
1 John 5:2-3 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
This relationship of love and obedience is one in which we don’t see our relationship with God, what God demands of us, as being “grievous”. This is a triangle love affair. We love God, we love God’s children (our brethren), and we keep God’s commandments. Each feeds into the others, and each comes from the others. Nobody can claim they love God (which is salvation) without obeying God.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another
Now this is a principle focal point. God’s commandment to us is that we love one another (our brethren). Let’s sidetrack for a minute to Matthew 25.
Mateo 25:31-46 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Again God places our lateral relationship of love to our brethren like a do or die thing. We do it right or we are not saved? How to we interpret this without getting into a works salvation kind of thing (which is unscriptural). Very simple. Christ is the head, and we (your brethren in Christ) are the body. You love God, or you are not saved. You respond to God’s love to you but embracing this God of love, and making his love for you the primary controlling spiritual principle in your life. Your faith (here the term “confidence” is better) in Jesus is really a trust in his preferences and priorities. This divine will (of God the Father) is better than what your preferences are. By embracing the will of God, we are saved. What is the will of God? Trusting and believing in the form and plan of Salvation that God has set before us. What is that? Christ dying on the cross for your sins.
In Matthew 25, what we see is that ALL TRUE CHRISTIANS (God will identify true faith in the loving example of Jesus dying on the cross for you) by what it produces spiritually in your life. This is principally an attitude and outworking of love for our brethren. What you do for the body of Christ is as if you were doing it to the very Jesus Christ himself. So this makes it extremely important that we take an attitude of profound respect towards our brethren, and that we serve them with love. Without a relationship of love with our brethren, we cannot possibly claim we love Christ, and there is no hope of salvation. These people who proclaim that they are good Christians but never go to any church except once a year (or by accident it would seem), cannot possibly understand the love of God required in all believers. They are truly “clueless”.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
Simply put, God tells us in no uncertain terms, we can discern externally those who are pretending to be saved but are not by their love of the brethren or the lack thereof. Once this is understood, we must fight constantly for a different attitude in our church environment. We must understand this situation and work it for all its worth.
1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
Notice that God practically reduces all that he asks of us to two things, faith in Jesus Christ, and love one another.
It is a group of believers who are congregating (formal organized meeting and activities). The purpose of the meeting, building, activities, etc. is to do the work of God.
The composition of this group is very clearly given. There wheat and tares among us. Some unsaved are always present, pretending to be Christians, but in actuality not. For this reason we also preach salvation messages even to the home folk from time to time.
Moreover there are spiritual babies, spiritual children, spiritual young people, and spiritual adults. Note that not all of these groups are defined by age. Some spiritual babies may be 70-80 years old, and some spiritual adults may be only 18. In addition to this mixed multitude, there are people in each group in highs and lows in their spiritual lives. Some are very encouraged and “up”, while others are suffering temptations, set-backs, discouragements, even death of family or disappoints in other ways, and these last ones need help, spiritual help.
What is the interaction between these different groups. The strong help the weak, the encouraged and victorious build up the weak or immature. In every church there are spiritual needy people. If there are not, then that church needs to do its work of evangelism, and shortly there will be. Also in every church there should be some spiritually mature people. The church should be seen as a workshop, where the mature and encouraged help and pull up the rest. Once these weak, immature, or spiritually discouraged people build up over time others, they in turn minister to the weak and discouraged. It is a never ending battle, an endless work.
If this is correct, then we must understand that every good church will have some problem makers, some immature people. It is like saying no sick people can come to a hospital. The purpose of the hospital is to treat the sick, and if you prohibit them for coming in, you defeat the whole purpose of the hospital from the beginning.
1. Our first principle here is that resolving problems is what we are all about.
A church without problems, and here we are speaking of problem people, personality conflicts, immature people, spiritually deficient people, is simply a church that lives in a fantasy land, and is not fulfilling its purpose. It is like a clean mechanic’s shop. Forget it. It doesn’t happen. Mechanic that work on cars do a dirty job, because what they deal with day in and day out is dirty.
Churches must deal with problem people, and people with problems. So just get used to that fact, and forget about pipe dreams of a church without problem people, or a church with people but that don’t have spiritual problems.
2. We fix what’s wrong, so come here to us.
There is a weird, freaky thinking circulating in churches that simply is ridiculous. The idea goes like this. So and so has started coming to our church, and he/she is a big problem. He/she is an embracement to us as a church. We will either cold shoulder the person hoping they get offended and leave, and if they don’t we will come out strongly against them and just tell them to go find another place and leave us alone.
It is like a doctor telling a patience to get lost because he is sick. “We only treat well sick people here.” (What?) This is just beyond belief.
3. You either love your brethren, or you need to be saved.
For the cruel and heartless that have no love for their brethren in Christ, “Go back to the drawing board and start over.” “Return to Go and do not collect your $200 dollars” (Monopoly). The point here is that the person who has no love for their brethren, and this is generally for all their brethren in their local church, and is specifically, that they have treatment, relationship, friendship, concern, preoccupation for each and every one, well, you just are not even saved, much less spiritual. You cannot love God and be indifferent to your brethren in Christ. It is impossible, and God tells you this.
4. Love is your benefit at my expense.
Here we define love by what it costs me, and the benefit it provides to others. In other words, love has to cost somebody something (time, energy, interest, priority, money, etc.) and it has to benefit somebody else. To love your brethren you have to spend time and energy with them, and show genuine interest and concern for them. Otherwise what you have is not love.
We also define love by meeting the needs of others, serving their needs by our supply. It is not what you want to give them, nor what they want from you, but in the eyes of God, what God says they need.
5. True love of God absolutely has to be manifested tangibly with our Christian brethren.
God has allowed us to continue on earth after salvation in order to build a relationship with our brethren and prove our love to God. This love of God must should itself by a tremendous amount of evidence, where we should our love by serving and meeting needs. Yes it costs us because God’s love to us cost Him. There is no other way.
6. The needy and immature bother me, and this will never change on their side of things, so it has to change on my side.
Here we talk about offense and frustration. Yes the needy and immature have their extreme bad habits. Babies use the bathroom at the most inconvenient times. They throw up always when I hold them. The belch when I am wanting to give them a kiss. They sleep when I want to play with them, and they want attention from me when I have to sleep to get up and work in the morning. That is the norm with babies. The needy in our church are exactly the same. Every time I have something of benefit for them (a sermon, a teaching they need, etc), they miss, and when there are things that are probably over their heads and they will not understand it, they are on the front row with their eyebrows in knots because they don’t understand and I am confusing them. All of this is just par for the course. Get used to it, and think over the long haul. Nothing is quick and fast here, nothing comes easy with babies. It just takes a lot of time, effort, and work, and then there is a lot of set backs to deal with also. Don’t get discouraged, get adjusted. You just have to work with what God gives you and allows you to work with, and thank God that He allows you to do something in His work.
Here a corollary to the above is people who are hurt, sometimes kick at the very people in the whole wide world that are on their side and helping them. I like to picture this as a sheep stuck in a barbed wire fence. He is bleeding, he is hurting, he is twisting and turning trying to get free any way he can. When the shepherd comes and tries to free him, the sheep may bite and scratch or even kick the shepherd who is helping him. This is normal for the situation, even though it is not normal for the sheep (which loves and is tender towards the shepherd). So when you deal with people who are suffering spiritually from the effects of sin, don’t be surprised if the spit and kick at you (spiritually or emotionally). That too is par for the course. Just love them, let it pass, forget about it, and don’t take it seriously.
Think about it this way. You are a doctor or a nurse, and somebody who has acid all over their body comes under your care. They are thrashing around from the pain, and they strike you because they cannot stand the pain they are in. You should not take their aggression or attacks at you seriously, because under different circumstances, they would probably never do that, and if you were under their circumstances, you might do just what they are doing. So just take it all with a grain of salt, and remember, the fountain head from which all love and service flows is our love relationship with God, not necessarily the great love our brethren have for us.
7. Don’t fret the problems, because without them, you would be out of a job.
God saves us so that we may partake in His ministry. So often Christian people get the idea that they want a life without problems, and a church without problems. Neither is realistic. Neither is going to happen. One the one hand, God gives us problems to work through so that we may be of spiritual benefit to the work of God. This is what gives us glory in heaven (our suffering now down here). So do like Paul and glory in tribulations, persecutions, and all sorts of problems. They are for our ultimate glory, reward, and good.
It is a privilege to be able to help our brethren. Do not underestimate the good parts of this “problem solving”. God saved us for His service. If we had no problems we would be of no use to God. Therefore be happy in all the problems that God sends you way, because in these problems is the confidence of God in you, that God thinks you can handle it.
8. Pastors, create an environment of love, and constantly thrust this concept on your congregation without end.
In some churches it actually gets to the point where people feel the church does not want to help them with their problems. The members are so mature that they ridicule and scorn those who come with problems. The pastor is so great of a pastor that he has no time for helping people because he studies and administrates so much.
The business of pastor is taking care of sheep, fixing what’s wrong in their lives, fixing their problems. A large part of these problems can be fixed through strong spiritual examples of mature Christians, and through the encouragement of Christian brethren. This should not be passed over lightly. But in the end, most immature people need someone to sit down with them and talk them through a situation and clarify the Bible’s position in regard to their situation, and only a mature Christian can do that.
As pastor (oversight of the church), you must absolutely preach, and preach hard the concept of love among the brethren. If you preach constantly and strongly, maybe in several years of hearing it preached your people will finally understand it and put it into practice (until the offense comes along wherein they will stick their thumbs in their mouths, go in a corner and pout). As pastor, it is your duty to establish biblical understanding and practice in the local church. Don’t think your people will naturally do this. What they will do naturally is the works of the flesh, destroy each other and themselves.
As a side note here, this love cannot happen in the normal rhythm of worship services. In other words it does not fit into a worship service nor was it meant to fit in their. This loving is done outside of services. It is socializing, or done during socializing. Encourage your people to come early, and stay after services to talk, even briefly, with their brethren. Hating is the same as ignoring in this scheme of things. To not take time or effort to socialize and show love is just a sin. It shows one thing, that you are setting up other things in your life that you think is more important than your brethren and God.
As a pastor, organize socials for your church, and encourage your people to socialize outside of church (like eating Sunday dinner together).
9. Be ready for the backlash, because Satan doesn’t like a loving church.
As a pastor who preaches this constantly, let me outline what will happen, the common events involved in this teaching. When you first start preaching this, it will take your people off guard. They will agree, smile, go home, and never again occur to them that they have no love, interest, affection, nor concern for their brethren. They already have friends among the congregation, and those friends are people who they naturally gravitate to them before any love teaching. Fine. Let things stay that way and keep preaching on love.
After a time, they will get mad at somebody, or some immature Christian will have problems and you will want the church’s participation in helping this needy person. That is when you bring it to their attention again. This is when things start getting rough. They want to love, but only to whom they choose, not to whom God places in their midst. This is when the real teaching gets underway. Love is shown to whom needs it, not to whom you want to receive it. In Matthew 25, the loving-kindness that defines a Christian is based on the other person’s needs, not on your choice of whom you want to show that love, concern, and help to. The teaching of the Good Samaritan is likewise teaching us to respond when God places needy people in our path. We do not have much in the way of control of who, just what we do for them.
That’s the first and second round. What comes next is some real growth in loving one another. This is when Satan will let loose with a fistful of problems in your church. Your people (especially the supposedly mature ones) will do the stupidest things. They will offend others, they themselves will get mad over it, and everybody will either offend others or be offended. This is when Satan has destroyed all love among your people.
In this shake out, probably a number of people will leave your church “to find a more loving group”. Don’t get upset. The accusation is exactly the problem that they are causing or that they have. Once things settle down again, keep teaching on love. Now there are a few people who at least have some kind of idea of what it is all about. They see the hypocrisy of those who have left, they feel guilty over the stupid things they themselves have done, and they are beginning to grow and be mature, just a little. This roller coaster ride will repeat over and over again. If you get a dozen people in your church that are truly mature, and truly understand and practice love, be prepared for something horrible to happen. Satan will split up that group because he cannot allow such a hot spot of growth and maturity to continue. People’s jobs take them away, a natural disaster occurs, or key people die, something.
This is within the plans of God. Once we dominate true fraternal love among us, God often allows us to break up, and these people take this teaching, understanding, and practice, and carry it to other churches wherever they go. So you have to start over just about at zero again. It is not uncommon. It is a constant project and work that never is finished.