No, this isn’t a “you should really learn to love your body the way it is” kind of blog. Sorry to disappoint all of you who wanted to read something like that. But, as a Christian, how much do you genuinely love the body of Christ?
I mean, let’s face it. How many people you know say that you love Christ, but you have a serious problem with the church or other Christians? I think that we, especially Americans, tend to separate Christ from the church. We claim a fervent love for Christ all the time, but we are largely unaware and not invested in the lives of fellow believers in our church, outside of our closest friends. Many women love to quote Ephesians 5:25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”, and yet, many of these same women care very little about the actual church and its members.
Doing some self-reflection over the past months, I believe that many Christians have a very selfish view of love, including myself. We view love as something we are entitled to. Love is based upon our own expectations and feelings, and we often get down if we aren’t loved enough. Now some people take a step and try to really love their spouse, their family and friends. These people have gotten over their ego a bit more and try to genuinely love the people in their lives. Yet, how many people go beyond this and actually have a love for the very body of Christ? How many people passionately and diligently love His body that is not quite perfect right now, but will be perfected in glory? How many people diligently care for the needs of the members of His body? How many people consistently try to strengthen and help bear the burdens of the weakest members of His body? How many people care about His body at all?
At our ladies’ Bible study at church for several months we’ve been going through Philippians and the Epistles of John. And we had a lot of conversations during those times about how we don’t view the church rightly and how we don’t love and care for the church as we ought, as Scripture commands us. In fact, the Apostle John said outright that if we do not love one another (as brothers and sisters in Christ), than we do not love God.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:7-11
The reason we are commanded to love the body of Christ is because God has fervently loved us through His Son, Jesus Christ. And we know that if we really don’t love the body of Christ, than we don’t really know God at all because if we knew Him, we would love everything about Him, including His body. The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:1-4
Our love for one another in the church is what unifies us, and it is what distinguishes us from the world and as true disciples of Christ (John 13:34-35). So as we think about building a bridge over ourselves and ending our own pity parties, what would loving the body of Christ, fellow believers, look like? Well, we can turn to the passage we use the most:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
We love to use this passage to emphasis and define the love that should be found in marriage, but the Apostle Paul put its actual context in the church. Addressing the diversity of gifts found in the body of Christ and the need for unity within the body, regardless of how people are gifted by the Spirit, the Apostle Paul outlines what love should look like in the church. The love within a child of God for the body of Christ, the church, should be completely patient and kind. It should be envious or proud and boastful. It shouldn’t have an ego or be controlling and bossy. It shouldn’t be bitter or resentful. It shouldn’t turn the other way or get happy when people are sinning (think about how you congratulate unmarried women who find out their pregnant in your church). It should always be happy when people are walking in obedience to God, in righteousness and truth. It shouldn’t be full of gossip, unable to bear with people’s weaknesses, but it should treat all brothers and sisters as if they always walk in integrity. This love is set and continuously points to Christ as our chief hope, knowing that He will come soon, and its very essence flows from our eternal Father, making our love for one another last throughout eternity.
Think about that for a moment: The love we should have for one another in the body of Christ should be an eternal love. You will find nothing in the Bible about an eternal love between a husband and a wife (Jesus said there is no marriage in heaven: Matthew 22:30). BUT, here we see that our love for the church, the very body of Christ, should be eternal. This isn’t to say that you forsake your marriage relationship for the church. But it does mean that we should really love the church, and that ultimately our eternal fellowship with Christ includes eternal fellowship with His body.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25
Our church has a soup and bread ministry, I found out. For members who are sick or shut-in, you can take them some homemade soup (it gets frozen in containers), and for first-time visitors, you can visit them and take them some homemade bread (that also gets frozen into loaves). Let me tell you, I was sooo excited when I first heard about this, and I immediately wanted to jump in and contribute. What a thoughtful way to check on people and meet the needs of our fellow brothers and sisters! But alas, I had a major problem. I’ve always sucked at making bread. I felt really discouraged, but I wanted to keep trying. So I prayed and asked my husband to pray for me, and this week, I successfully made a loaf of bread for our home. I cannot explain to you how excited I was just to be able to master this in the kitchen. But I am even more excited because this means that I can actually contribute to this ministry and really care for people randomly now. And last night, I had that opportunity with a couple from our church going through a very difficult time.
As I’ve sought the Lord more and more to give me a sincere love for His body here, God is richly growing me in this area. People come to mind often throughout my day, and I take time to pray for them. I send messages to people randomly just to let them know that I was thinking of them and keeping them in prayer. I’ve making sure that I’m encouraging more people in the Lord now, and as much as I am a homebody, I’m even suggesting meeting up for lunch or dinner with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to have fellowship outside of church. I mean, once you are aware that you have really fallen short in an area, humble yourself, and seek the Lord to mature you, He really really does.
And it is my prayer that if you are a professed believer in Christ that you seriously reflect on your love for the body of Christ. I pray that if you know that you aren’t loving the way that you ought, that you do humble yourself and seek God on the matter. I pray that you realize how important it truly is as a testimony of your professed faith, and I pray that you know that loving Christ is loving His entire body. Trust me, He will separate the wheat from the tares on the final day, but for now, love those who claim to be His. Love your church. Love the body.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:31-46