(Photo by Selma Komisky)
How Do We Express Love in the Church?
By: Katie Berry
In Romans 8:31-39, God’s never-ending love is depicted. Telling us that nothing can separate us from God’s love, our Church must be a model of this—loving in the very same way. If we, as followers of Christ, have been loved this way by God, it is our purpose in life to love others like Jesus—a vessel in which we share the Gospel with others.
In our world, people are constantly fighting against each other. With war plaguing countries, terrorism striking fear and killing thousands, heated political debates that become a verbally vulgar fistfight, hatred amongst races and religions, abuse, division within families, and much, much, more, the world is deprived of God’s love. And, as the Church, we are the ones that are called to overflow the world with love. But how do we do this when we are condemned for what we stand for? How can we love the murderers, adulterers, liars, thieves, and, wait for it, the dreaded other political party? Simply put, love anyways. We must love with a love filled with commitment—a love like 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. A love that honors the Lord—one that is not contingent on what others do to us, but on what He did for us.
In comparing these two guidelines of love—the one set for God (Romans 8:31-39) and one set for us (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)—we see that love is unconditional. It never wavers. It isn’t selective of who is “good,” who is a Christian, or who is of the same political affiliation as we are. It isn’t a love that sticks its nose up at those “weird people” we don’t want to talk to or those we don’t like (come on, we all have at least one of those). It is a love like Jesus, welcoming to everyone—even the tax collectors and prostitutes. No one is excluded from God’s love, so the same goes for ours.
You’re probably thinking, “Ok, Katie. I get it already. We’re supposed to love everyone—even my mother-in-law—but give me something here. How do I express it? How can I show even the most undesirable person, the most terrible people, love like Christ has shown for me?”
Well, I may not always be the best at always doing these, but here are a few applicable ways in which we can express love both individually as Christians and collectively as the Church.
While in our sin, Christ accepted us for who we were. As He hung upon the cross and watched the soldiers roll die for His clothes, He cried out to God, “‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,’” (Luke 23:34).
You know the rest of the story. Christ was crucified, shedding His righteous blood for all of our sins. Now, when we come to salvation, we are forgiven completely in His name. Through Him we are given God’s grace. We are perfect and blameless before the Father.
As we have been given this, we must also be forgiving of others. Even if they aren’t Christians. Even if they hurt or abused us. Even if they have sinned against us.
We must, instead, be like Jesus and ask God to forgive them. We must remember that when we sinned, Jesus was right there to forgive us. And now, we are called to give that same forgiveness to others.
Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 13:5 to keep no record of wrongs. In order to love like God has commanded us to in these guidelines, we cannot hold onto the wrongdoings of others—just like we do not expect others to do to us.
Real Life Application: If you’re holding onto any unforgiveness towards someone today, make the choice to forgive them. It’s a simple choice. As a Church, we have no business holding onto bitterness and unforgiveness. In the end, it hurts you and affects your relationship with God.
Letting go of the unforgiveness above means we can now pray for them. Pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6:28).
As it states in Romans 8:34, “Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.”
Not only did Jesus die on the cross for us almost 2,000 years ago, but He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us each and every day.
Just as Jesus loves us, we should love others. We should also pray for those who hurt us. Even if they are “undeserving” of our forgiveness or our time, let us intercede for them as Jesus does for us.
Biblical love is not self-seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). In praying for those who hurt us (or for anyone in general, for that matter), we are selflessly sacrificing our time and energy to intercede for them on their behalf. We pray not to get anything in return, but to bring their needs up to God and ask for His assistance.
As the Church, we will never solve anything by putting blame on others. People will never know God if the Church isn’t willing to do the hard work of taking difficult people and situations into prayer before Him. In His infinite love, He wants the best for all of His children. And, by praying for people with love, you are inviting God to partake in that.
Real Life Application: Take time today to pray for someone who has hurt you. Forgive them (if you haven’t already) and pray a blessing over them. Ask God to work in their lives. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. Keep them in the back of your mind and say a quick prayer for them whenever you think of them.
In Colossians 3:12, we are instructed to be clothed in compassion, kindness, gentleness, and patience.
This connects to the guideline of love that we are called to follow in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Compassion in the Greek for this verse is agapāo, which means to love with a strong affection.
Our compassion for others must be found within our foundation of love. And that love must contain a strong affection for others that is rooted in selflessness, kindness, and patience.
Not only should our compassion go to people who are experiencing affliction, but it should go to everyone. No matter what the person has gone through or what they have done, if the Lord shows compassion to them, so should we.
Often times it is seen within the Church that we judge or ostracize those who live differently than we do. Yes, we must look to see if the behavior contradicts what the Bible says, but we should never get to the point of judging others. Instead, we should compassionately love them right where they are at.
Furthermore, notice that God doesn’t instruct us to be compassionate to only those we agree with. Rather, He instructs us to be clothed in compassion. That means anyone who sees us should receive that same compassion. Take the opportunity to compassionately see that person the way God does. And thank God for the opportunity to show compassion to others.
Real Life Application: Whenever you encounter someone this week whose lifestyle, religion, etc. upsets you, take a moment to (after you pray for them) practice compassion. Remember that if that person isn’t a believer, you were once like them too—unknowledgeable of the life you could have in Him. And if they are a believer, still find compassion for them. Just because their beliefs don’t align with yours doesn’t mean that they are less deserving of loving compassion.
These are just three ways that we, as the Church, can make our mark on the world. By showing an unconditional, steadfast love, people can see one of the characteristics of God. While the world may not understand where our love comes from, especially when it is for those who have hurt us, they will see that there is something different about us. In a world so deprived of God’s love, they will be drawn to what we have to offer. As the Church, we can change the world. One step at a time with His love.