Christians have been given God’s guide to life, the living and the Holy Bible. Not only does it provide the big picture for us, it also provides the ’how,’ if we will but seek for it.
One of the biggest questions on the minds of mankind was answered by Jesus in His reply to His disciples as recorded in Matthew 22:36, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” The reply from Jesus was clear and succinct,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
These, are the big picture. The question is, how do we love in accordance to the Bible?
To start looking at this topic, like all else in the Bible, we need to see it in the same word pictures which the original author’s used. As children of a Greek education, we tend to see things through the eyes of humanism and all of the “…ologys” [psychology, sociology, biology etc.] which humanism has invented to avoid using God’s given pictures and explanations.
Jesus died and rose again that all mankind may be reconciled to Him and to one another, and established a community for us, The Church, of which He is the head. Ephesians 5:23-30 clearly lays this picture out of us saying:
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
The Church is the Body of Christ and all Christians are active parts of that body. Paul explored this theme on a number of occasions. Let us look at just one, in First Corinthians 12:13
“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
The allusion to the ‘body’ here is not that to a group of people, but to that of a human body. Paul goes on to elucidate and expand on this in First Corinthians 12:14-27 saying:
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?
As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honour to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
However, Paul did not see this only as a conceptual picture, but as a spiritual function. As he says of the Body in Colossians 2:19 “….. holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” In other words, there can be no such thing as a Christian “Lone Ranger,” for if one is not part of the body of Christ, one cannot be nourished or grow. A Christian apart from the Body, is dead.
In overall terms, we can see the Church as a community being in two parts, the universal Church which covers the whole word and includes every Christian who was, and is, and is yet to be; while the Local Church is that which we attend and congregation we are an active part. Together, they are the Family of God, and with Jesus as its head. As Paul tells us, this has been the plan of God from the very beginning of time as Ephesians 2:5-6 attests saying,
“But God is rich in mercy, and he loved us very much. We were spiritually dead because of all we had done against him. But he gave us new life together with Christ. (You have been saved by God’s grace.) Yes, it is because we are a part of Christ Jesus that God raised us from death and seated us together with him in the heavenly places.”
Thus, not only are we therefore part of the Body of Christ, we are also part of the Family of God. This means that we have the same rights and opportunities as any child of any human parent, to come to that parent any time we choose. For us as Christians, this means coming to God in prayer and in supplication to converse with Him and to hear Him, to have a relationship with Him, and to have quality time with Him.
Having established what we are, and who we are, we can now look to the Bible to see what guidance it provides us for our relationships with other parts of the Body of Christ and the Family of God. As part of the big picture, we saw earlier that Jesus set that down for us as He said ”You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Let us now look at the practical how’s of fulfilling the relationships we are required to hold with “one another” which God provides for us in His Holy Bible:
Love one another: John 13:34 “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you.”
Pray for one another: James 5:16 “So always tell each other the wrong things you have done. Then pray for each other. Do this so that God can heal you. Anyone who lives the way God wants can pray, and great things will happen.”
Share one another’s troubles: Galatians 6:1-2 “Brothers and sisters, someone in your group might do something wrong. You who are following the Spirit should go to the one who is sinning. Help make that person right again, and do it in a gentle way. But be careful, because you might be tempted to sin too. Help each other with your troubles. When you do this, you are obeying the law of Christ.”
Honour one another: Romans 12:10 “Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honour than you give yourself.”
Get along with one another: Romans 12:16 “Live together in peace with each other. Don’t be proud, but be willing to be friends with people who are not important to others. Don’t think of yourself as smarter than everyone else.”
Forgive one another: Ephesians 4:32 “Never be bitter, angry, or mad. Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others. Never do anything evil.”
Consider one another more important than ourselves: Philippians 2:3 “In whatever you do, don’t let selfishness or pride be your guide. Be humble, and honour others more than yourselves.”
Encourage one another: First Thessalonians 5:11 “So encourage each other and help each other grow stronger in faith, just as you are already doing.”
Doing these things as a Christian should not be burdensome; they should come naturally with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as He works out our salvation. Love is a choice we consciously make and the public manifestation of that love can also be a choice we consciously make. However, the truth is that sometimes it is just not that easy and we fail. But this is why we have the Holy Spirit, the Comforter of God living inside us; such that when we can no longer do things under the power of our own flesh, we can receive His help and encouragement! Please note, however, that this does not mean that God will do these things for us, but that He will work in us to enable us to do them in His power and in His encouragement. It is this manifestation of the Holy Spirit working within us, which shows we are in deed and in truth, Christians, for as John 13:35 says “All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”
Amen and Amen and Amen.
This article is based around ideas and a compilation of scriptures from:
Theology: Think for yourself about what you believe (TH1NK Reference Collection) by Mark A. TABB.