What do you think about the word “responsibility?” For some people that’s almost a negative word. It makes something an overwhelming obligation and it sounds like something we’d rather not do. And while some responsibilities are certainly unpleasant, they shouldn’t be something we always stick our nose up at. In fact, responsibilities are often those things that are good for us and good for those we are responsible to and for.
As our congregation nears the end of 2018 we are looking ahead into 2019. What do we want to be about in the new year? What areas do we want to put a particular focus on? What I thought could use some encouragement is our responsibility to one another. Though the Bible never calls it that specifically, when you combine the many times commands are given regarding how we treat one another, it becomes clear it isn’t optional.
The challenge before our congregation is to be committed to one another more and more in 2019. To see those responsibilities as opportunities to put into practice the things God wants us to and make a tangible impact on the lives of other Christians. This means being committed though. As time goes on it becomes easier and easier for our attention to become solely on ourselves. And instead of the church being filled with people focused on one another, it’s filled with people focused on their own needs. So, what do we do to avoid that trap?
Look at the words of Jesus in John 13:34-35. In this passage Jesus lays out the command to love one another. He goes on to tell us this love is to be like His for us and it’s by this love that people will connect us back to Him. It’s my conviction that in order for the church to be what God has called it to be, we have to love one another. That for commitment to really take root within us, it begins by our love for one another. If we lack love, many other things we do won’t have near the impact they could otherwise.
You are probably familiar with 1 Corinthians 13, the great chapter of love. Verses 4-8 are what we are most familiar with, the description of the kind of love God wants us to have. But notice verses 1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1Co 13:1-3, ESV)
Here Paul points out the importance of love within God’s people. It’s not optional and in fact, without it, many of the things that are really important don’t have the impact on our lives that they should.
As we think about what the church really needs its tempting to point to things like Bible study, evangelism and giving, and those are all true. What I’m about to say isn’t meant to diminish the need for those things in any way. With that in mind, I’d like you to insert those ideas into the passage you just read. Listen to how it would read:
If we have knowledge of all of scripture and can teach it fully, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have a passion to preach to the world and seek to teach everyone about Jesus, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Though I took a little liberty with the text there, I think the underlying message is true. When God’s people lack love, especially for one another, our knowledge of Him and His word and our desire to fulfill His mission are going to be hampered. It’s the combination of these that is important.
The challenge with love is that it involves having to do something for others and engage with them in a deep way. It requires us to interact with others. So many of the things we think of as spiritual don’t require us to be around others. We can study scripture alone. We can pray alone. We can even sing alone. But if we want to truly love one another, we can’t just do what is beneficial for us. We must interact and engage with one another. We have to make a pointed effort to choose to show love to one another.
As you consider what 2019 may hold for you, let me encourage you to be growing in your love for other Christians and seeking to draw others closer to God through that love. Let the world see that we are His by our love for one another.