How to Love One Another... Even Other Christians
- Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Gerald L. Sittser's book, Love One Another: Becoming the Church Jesus Longs For, (InterVarsity Press).
His extroverted personality annoys you. She seems too quiet. He favors a liturgical worship style, while you like a contemporary one. Her political views are too liberal for your conservative taste. Sound like any of the people at your church?
You may dislike them or disagree with them, but their commitment to Christ makes them your spiritual brothers and sisters. If you fail to reach out to them in love as Christ calls you to, then your fractured relationships will do great damage to all involved. But if you take Christ’s command to love them seriously, that love will become a powerful force for good – both in your church, and in the watching world.
Here’s how you can learn to love other Christians – no matter what:
Remember what God intends the church to be. The church should be a foretaste of what heaven will be like, with many vastly different people unified in their diversity by their love for Jesus Christ. It should be such a loving community that it’s an incarnation of Christ’s own sacrificial love. Realize that differences are normal and healthy; it’s simply how you respond that tests whether or not you’re willing to love. Keep God’s desire for the church to be a loving community in mind. Don’t settle for less, as far as it depends on you.
Welcome one another. Be willing to embrace people as they really are, rather than as you wish they would be. Remember that God doesn’t play favorites; He generously loves all people, and hopes that you will, too. Don’t reserve your love only for those who love you back, or who are similar to you in personality, religious conviction, interests, background, social status, economic level, race, culture, etc. Ask God to help you accept all people as equally important because they’ve been made in His image. When you interact with people, acknowledge them, show appreciation for their accomplishments, express affection for them, and say something that blesses them. Look for the best in people and overlook the worst whenever you can.
Be subject to one another. Surrender yourself to God and ask Him to show you how to do His will in circumstances that are less than ideal. Instead of waiting for people and situations to conform to your wishes (which is futile), invite God to use difficult people and situations to transform you according to His wishes – into someone who’s more like Christ. Rather than insisting on pursuing your own agenda or protecting your own rights, trust God to do what’s best for you in challenging circumstances.
Forbear one another. Let your gratitude for how often God has shown forbearance to you – loving you despite your many sins, mistakes, and weaknesses – motivate you to give other people the room to be who they are, despite all their imperfections. Remember that we’re all works in progress. Ask God to give you the humility, patience, grace, and humor you need to accept people without judging them, and to encourage them to be themselves around you. Keep in mind that, while Christians need to stand for essential beliefs such as Christ’s divinity, there’s plenty of room for different ways of expressing faith. Rather than trying to change people who bother you, pray for them and trust God to change them in the best ways and at the best times. Don’t deny people opportunities to serve simply because they have flaws. Accept and affirm the valuable contributions that imperfect people make through Christian service. Be willing to listen respectfully to people who don’t share your point of view on an issue, yet still share faith in Christ. Allow yourself to learn from their perspectives.
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