In this world many find it hard to stay committed to each other for the long haul in a marriage. It is even harder to stay committed to a church, where you’re dealing with the personalities of not just one person but many. Many may not be mature at loving others or even have a desire to become so. How is it possible to deal with the pain that can come from such relationships? The kind of love Paul calls for in 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t human; it’s supernatural. God has given us some tools that can help us live out this kind of love.
- First: We have a model to study: Jesus. We can treat Him as our ultimate role model and watch how He treats people.
- Second: We have the Word of God as the Holy Spirit–inspired road map that tells us where to go and how to get there.
- Third: We have the Holy Spirit living inside us. He empowers us to live out what we have learned in the Word of God. His fruit is love, joy, peace, and so on. We need to abide or remain in Jesus through the Holy Spirit the way a branch abides or remains in a vine (John 15:1–2, 4–6).
- Fourth: Models to emulate. Hopefully we all have some human models to emulate. Ideally we were given godly parents to help us see what love looks like in practice, and we have pastors and teachers who model what we read about in Scripture. Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). We can see in the New Testament how Paul does things and imitate him. And ideally again, we have human leaders in a church and at home who are good role models.
- Fifth: We have the Holy Spirit working through other people as we do life together with them. As they walk with Jesus in His Word, they make themselves available to God to speak into our lives. They encourage and exhort us, and we encourage and exhort them too. Together we remain in Christ and bear much fruit.
Gradually we mature, moving from consumers to contributors. We no longer expect the weekend service and home group alone to feed us, because we are learning to feed ourselves through time alone with Jesus each day, through Christian books, and through listening to sermons and Christian music during the week.
As we spend time with other believers in daily relationships, we are fed as God works through them in our lives. We move from being takers to being sharers of the responsibility with others to feed one another. (See 1 John 1:7)
- We learn to see the weekend service through others’ eyes.
- We may not like the topic being preached on, but we recognize that it may be for others this week. We pray for those who are listening.
- We may not like the style of music, but we recognize that there are older or younger believers who love it, and we are glad they are worshiping with it.
- We look for the people coming to the service who need a hug or a listening ear.
- We even volunteer to serve in the children’s ministry so that parents can be fed in the service and kids can be loved by the spiritual community.
In the same way, we move from seeing the home group or the men’s or women’s group being about how we are fed to being about how we can feed others as well. We make sure we are learning to feed ourselves in many ways so that when we meet with other believers, we are not limping in, starved to death because of personal neglect of our spirits.
The other day I had a man come to me to say he was leaving our church because we did not always preach verse-by-verse sermons. I told him I liked verse by verse too and would listen to Christian preachers on the radio who used that style a couple of times a week. I told him I read Scripture verse by verse every day. I reminded him that if you planned on feeding yourself once a week with only the kind of food you like physically, you would have little energy to fight off sickness or work for a living.
I told him that a church is much more than just the sermon on Sunday and that a healthy believer will read Scripture daily, listen to good sermons in the car or on the internet, read good Christian books filled with spiritual teaching, have great talks with other believers, and engage in relationships that encourage and protect both themselves and others.
As you grow, you move from expecting church to be built around your own preferences to being a contributor who seeks to hear from God’s Word in whatever style is preached. The Holy Spirit can work in many ways when He is invited into what is happening.
Worship isn’t about your preference of music; it’s about worshiping God and caring about His preference. His preference is that our hearts are about bringing glory to Him and caring for others in the room.
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:1–6)
This post by Jim Putman first appeared here. Used with permission.