Strengthening the Local Church Through Love
If you look at social media sites you may find that many of your friends share information that seems too private or personal. We all need love but sometimes we ask for it in unhealthy ways and from the wrong sources. Often we are simply revealing how starved we are for love and attention.
Because the local church is made up of individuals we need to think about individual needs. The Lord’s design for His church is perfect; therefore, no one’s needs should be left unfulfilled. It is every Christian’s responsibility to “let brotherly love continue” (Hebrews 13:1). Our congregation should never be emotionally starved so we all need to make sure we are fulfilling our obligation to love each member. Yes, there are situations where the local church is available to love a brother or sister who is hurting but they are rebuffed at every attempt. However, there are times when those who turn to the church for affection find none.
We need to follow the command to “be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another” (Romans 12:10). The love mentioned in the passage is an affectionate, family love. Using familiar terms for brethren is common in the Bible (Philippians 1:6-7, I Samuel 18:1, John 13:33, II Timothy 2:1). The word “preferring” indicates that we must be an example in honoring one another. We must take the initiative and honor with eagerness. This is a command we fulfill willingly and gladly (I John 5:3). “Honor” indicates value. The Holy Spirit uses the same word to tell us that our bodies (I Thessalonians 4:3-4), our wives (I Peter 3:7), our faith (I Peter 1:7), and our God all have value (Revelation 4:11). Notice by association how we should honor our Christian family!
There are many ways we should show our affection. Describing his ministry among the church at Thessalonica Paul said, “Ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children” (I Thessalonians 2:11). Words can express love powerfully. Consider the way God chose to reveal His will. Our words of encouragement can make a huge difference in the lives of others. In order to accomplish this we must get beyond simple pleasantries and push ourselves to have deeper spiritual conversations. Are we willing to tell a brother, “I love you,” instead of just, “I appreciate you.” Nothing is wrong with the latter but our love needs to be expressed in words.
We must give brethren the attention they need (Philippians 2:4). Are we too busy to listen to our family. We should also give attention with our service (Galatians 6:10). The number of members in your congregation is the same number of ministers you should have. Another way we can give attention is by giving gifts. That is exactly what the woman with an alabaster box of ointment did in Luke 7:37-38. She gave Jesus the most precious item she possessed.
Finally, physical touch is a way that we should show our loving affection to one another. How many Christians remember only the second line of Romans 16:16? The churches of Christ in the first century saluted one another with a holy kiss. This does not mandate kissing at every meeting, but rather mentions one of many customary greetings found in scripture. The point is that we need the affection of greetings involving physical touch. This must be chaste, but warm. We can offer a friendly handshake or a short embrace. We can hold hands with or put a hand on the shoulder of those who need our love. Love keeps in mind the preferences of the other and so we must not seek to make one another uncomfortable with these displays of affection.
Who needs this love? Only the weaker members (I Corinthians 12:23), the older members (Leviticus 19:32), the younger members (Colossians 3:31), babes in Christ (I Corinthians 3:1-2), the shepherds (I Thessalonians 5:12-13), the deacons (I Timothy 3:13), and the teachers and preachers (Colossians 4:10). In other words, every member must be cherished affectionately. When we define love and provide specific applications we find that it is work. It is time to make this labor of love a labor we love doing.