Connected in Community—By Love
Love is treating everyone we meet with respect and seeking to meet their need as the opportunity arises often at the cost of personal sacrifice.
Connected in Community—By Love
Our physical body is a complex connection between mutually dependent cells, tissue, organs, and consciousness. Parts, many parts all knit together in such a unique way that their arrangement and organization makes you, you. The parts function together in harmony, in unity so that you can experience health and vitality. One of the early followers of Jesus named Paul utilized the body as a metaphor, a picture of the reality that exists for each and everyone who confesses Jesus is Lord. The purpose of the metaphor is to help us understand that believers are intimately and vitally connected to each other.
Romans 12:4-5 (NCV)
Each one of us has a body with many parts, and these parts all have different uses. In the same way, we are many, but in Christ, we are all one body. Each one is a part of that body, and each part belongs to all the other parts.
This month we are going to explore how being connected to one another demands that we function in the body in such a way that it brings health and vitality to the whole. Basically, this is how we live as a member of the body of Christ. In this teaching, we are going to consider the behavior that is simple to understand and much more difficult to accomplish. That behavior is to love. For the body, to be healthy, full of life, power and the presence of God you have to be a lover.
Jesus gave each believer a command. A command is an order to obey. To disobey is to harm yourself and sicken the entire body of which you are a part.
John 13:34-35 (MSG)
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way, I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other."
In the same way, Jesus loves you, you are to love every one Jesus loves, in the way Jesus does. What you have received in and thorough God’s love you are to give away to others, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to discover how Jesus loves and then with this knowledge actualize the power the Holy Spirit provides that we can love the way we have been loved. You just might discover that you have the capacity to love that you didn’t realize you had.
The definition that we’ve used for years when speaking of love is that love is treating everyone we meet with respect and seeking to meet their need as the opportunity arises often at the cost of personal sacrifice. Love is therefore not necessarily a feeling, an emotion, rather it is always an action, something we do, something we give to another. We’ll dig deeper into that definition as we learn how Jesus modeled this as an example for us to imitate.
When it comes to our interactions with others, and especially within the body, we are to treat one another with respect.
Romans 12:10 (NCV)
Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves.
When we honor another we are demonstrating our great respect not just to them but to God in whose image they have been created. Give to others the distinction you want to receive: you want to be recognized, to be listened to, to be understood, to be valued, and as we just read from Romans; to be loved. Everyone needs this. Don’t you?
Paul a follower of Jesus wrote to the believers:
“When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves. Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” (Phil 2:3-4 (NCV)
The Holy Spirit empowers you to give honor to others. When you do you are demonstrating your great respect for them. If you are following Jesus you will find you can give this kind of love away to those who at one time you had no regard for or even despised.
Consider the example of Jesus.
Luke 7:37-39 (NCV)
A sinful woman in the town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house. So she brought an alabaster jar of perfume and stood behind Jesus at his feet, crying. She began to wash his feet with her tears, and she dried them with her hair, kissing them many times and rubbing them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who asked Jesus to come to his house saw this, he thought to himself, “If Jesus were a prophet, he would know that the woman touching him is a sinner!“
Luke 7:44-48 (NCV)
Then Jesus turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I came into your house, you gave me no water for my feet, but she washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but she has been kissing my feet since I came in. You did not put oil on my head, but she poured perfume on my feet. I tell you that her many sins are forgiven, so she showed great love. But the person who is forgiven only a little will love only a little.“ Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.“
Jesus recognized the person, listened to her actions, understood, valued, and loved this prostitute. When we offer the same to another we are honoring them. When we demonstrate respect for another we are emulating Christ, living out His example. You’re living in such a way as to bring health and vitality to the body.
Love is treating the other with respect and it is meeting their need. In the passage, we just read from Luke the story continues. After Jesus held up the mirror to help Simon the Pharisee grasp the truth, Jesus says to the town whore: “Because you believed, you are saved from your sins. Go in peace.“ (Luke 7:50 (NCV). She had a need to be forgiven, Jesus forgave, met her need but also did something more. Because Jesus recognized, listened to her actions, understood, valued, and loved her, the woman who left the dinner party was different than the one who came uninvited. Respecting another gives them room to change. What an incredible gift you can give another simply by respecting them.
In the body, we are to come to know one another intimately. We are to be able to converse freely not guardedly. We are to be the ones who do not judge, we do not shame so that we can know the need of the other. Then knowing the need, do something to meet that need and allow the Holy Spirit to use us to be a liberator.
James 2:14-16 (NCV)
My brothers and sisters, if people say they have faith, but do nothing, their faith is worth nothing. Can faith like that save them? A brother or sister in Christ might need clothes or food. If you say to that person, “God be with you! I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat,“ but you do not give what that person needs, your words are worth nothing.
The brother of Jesus, James, is telling us to do tangible things to help when there are tangible needs, material needs. This need meeting is good, it’s right, it’s honoring. If you can’t, if the Lord doesn’t burden you doing something about their need, still give them recognition, your ear, your understanding, by doing so you demonstrate that you value them, they discover that they are loved. Knowing that you are loved is a great gift, give it away to others.
Such behavior is giving the other empathy and compassion. It’s that proverbial putting yourself in another’s position. Jesus demonstrated this sort of behavior. At least 23 times in the New Testament we read of Jesus' compassion.
[For example--Matthew 20:34; Matthew 23:37; Mark 1:41; Mark 6:34; Mark 8:2-3; Luke 7:13; Luke 19:41-42; John 6:5-13; John 11:33-38, Hebrews 4:15]
Matthew 9:36 (NIV)
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Compassion moved Jesus to action.
Matthew 14:14 (NIV)
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
The Holy Spirit empowers you to have compassion for others; to consider their concerns and needs as your own. When compassion moves you to meet needs you are like Jesus. You’re living in such a way as to bring health and vitality to the body.
Love is treating the other with respect, love is seeking to meet their need, and love is doing so at the cost of personal sacrifice.
We all have agendas. We all have responsibilities. We have our likes and our dislikes, our preferences, and desires. The scripture calls these types of things our loads and admonishes us to carry our own loads (Galatians 6:5). But there are occasions when the load gets too heavy to be carried. The load becomes a burden, a crushing weight that one person cannot handle on their own. So love motivates you to divert your time, talent and treasure to help another with their burden, their need. “The costliness of love means that we have to sacrifice our agendas for others.” [https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-74-loving-jesus-loved-john-1331-38
We are to take what is ours and give it away to help lift another’s burden. Jesus referred to this as laying down your life (John 15:13).
John 15:12-13 (NIV)
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus demonstrates his love by physically sacrificing his body to relieve the great burden of sin that humanity has carried.
Hebrews 9:27-28 (NCV)
Just as everyone must die once and be judged, so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Love is treating everyone we meet with respect and seeking to meet their need as the opportunity arises often at the cost of personal sacrifice. This is the love that God has lavished upon you, given to you through Jesus. Love has engrafted us into the body of Christ. Love brings health and vitality to the body. Being lovers is how we are to live in the body.
Matthew 22:35-40 (NCV)
One Pharisee, who was an expert on the law of Moses, asked Jesus this question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?“
Jesus answered, “ ’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like the first: ’Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.“
Everyone who believes is connected to every other one who believes. Together we are the body of Christ. To live in a body that is healthy, full of life, full of the presence of God, you must commit yourself to be a lover. Open the eyes of your heart and do the loving that Jesus commands. It's your love that opens God’s conduit to nourish the body, the body thrives in your deeds of loving others.
See that one, that one brother or sister that you haven’t shown respect to, that you are not honoring, that you have seen their need or even suspect their need, and ignored, and go out of your way, lay down your life, to help them lift their burden. Step up in love. This is how we live in the body. Living this way brings health and vitality to the body.