Theme of the Week: Four Essential Loves
Bible Verse: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:25-32
For too many people the church represents the source of some of their life’s greatest disappointments, wounds or scars. For these people, the thought of loving the church may present an enormous challenge.
We are not called to love a concept, an organization or institution, a tradition or denomination. We are called to love each other, forgiven people who share a common life, the life of Christ, and a common loyalty to the missio dei, the mission of God in this needy world. The difficulty, of course, is that the ideal is so often blurred by present realities that include disobedient Christ followers as well as a world antagonistic to Christ and his wonderful, redemptive purposes.
Scripture leaves no doubt regarding the depth of Christ’s love for the church. Paul uses Christ’s love for the church as the standard by which husbands are to measure their love for their own wives. Consider the expressions he uses here: loved her; gave himself up for her; that he might sanctify her; having cleansed her by the washing of water and the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle, that she might be holy and without blemish.
How are we to love the church? First of all, our love for the church must not be based on what the church does for us. We choose to love the church because Christ loved his church in his life and through his death.
Second, we must love the church by refusing to budge from a Christ-like standard of holiness. Loving the church this way does not allow the society or world we live in to determine what constitutes appropriate conduct. Christ has already demonstrated what appropriate conduct should resemble. Christ’s desire for the church is not primarily that we be relevant or prophetic, or that we be compassionate, do justice, and exhibit loving kindness. His desire, indeed his command, is that we be holy!
Loving the universal church typically represents little or no challenge for us. It is distant and therefore less demanding. But it is within the context of a local fellowship, with whom you have chosen to identify, that your love for the church is going to be demonstrated most powerfully and authentically. It is in the messy, mundane routines and responsibilities of washing the dirt off one another’s lives that the world will take notice. It is through those efforts they will say, “Man, these people really do love each other!”
Loving the church will be most challenging for us during the times when the church does not always operate the way we think it should. If we are waiting for the church to clean itself up and smooth out the wrinkles, and therefore earn our commitment and love, we should instead remember that in loving the church Christ loves us!
Personal Reflection: How would you presently gauge you own personal love for the church?
Taken from Four Essential Loves: Heart Readiness for Leadership and Ministryby William R. McAlpine Copyright © 2013 by William R. McAlpine. Used by permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401
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