Because Jesus Loves the Church
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
“There is so much conflict in my church, I hate going. I feel as though church people are meaner than people outside the church.” I feel the pain of this woman who approached me after I spoke on the priceless gift of community. Sadly, too many of us know the grief of church conflict. People stop going to church because they have seen too much mean spirited and hateful behavior inside the church. Before you give up on the local church, consider carefully how much Jesus loves the Church. He gave His life for the Church, His Bride. Push any decisions about giving up on the value of church through the grid of His love for us.
Right before His death, Jesus prayed that we would be one, just as His Father and He are one. Jesus loved community. He loved unity. Loving community demonstrates the heart and mind of God. It glorifies God. That in itself should compel us to find a way to cultivate community in our local church. Community and unity do not mean we are all the same, must think the same, or must live the same. In fact, we must not miss the keys to community and unity that are threaded throughout this Scripture. We will need endurance and encouragement. We will need to follow Jesus with the one goal of glorifying our Father. To do that, we must ACCEPT one another. Accept that one who is different from me, the one who has hurt me or makes choices with which I do not agree. Who is our model? Jesus Himself who accepted each of us in a way that praises God. These are mysteries and yet there are practical directions in this passage that help guide us through the pitfalls of cultivating community.
Paul encouraged the Philippian church to be like minded. How in the world could they or we achieve such a lofty goal when we all have strong opinions that often clash? He goes on to say that Christians need to be one in spirit and purpose, to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than themselves. He encourages us to look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others (Philippians 2:2-4). There is the key to cultivating a spirit of peace and unity in our local churches, that is recognizing that our ultimate purpose must be to glorify God, not ourselves. It’s not about us! We are ONE in Jesus. He is the common denominator. View your local church through the lens of eternity and conflicts through the grid of serving Jesus alone. Such focus helps transform our hearts so that out of them will flow springs of living water designed to cultivate life in our community.
Oh Lord, I read this passage and I think about how people in my church have hurt me. I don’t love the church the way you do. Yet you command me to accept and love one another, even those who have hurt me. Show me how to do that because I can’t do this by myself. Show me how to view the church as You do.