What does loving one another look like? What should the body of Christ look like? I would venture to say the body of Christ should look like Jesus. Our traits as individuals and as a whole should be conformed to His image. His Holy Spirit in us should be evident and fully functioning among us. Our love should be apparent. And we shouldn’t resemble the world.
The world doesn’t like to submit to authority or recognize the people who work so hard behind the scenes. They want to show up to a church without being part of the church. They want to be served and not serve themselves. They expect the pastor to give them a nice little message, listen to their whining, give them what they need, and then ignore them for the next 6 days. But the people who do that, though they may come to church are not of the church they are still of the world. There is no unity with the body. Verses 12-13 read,
“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.”
Paul urges us to respect the people who work among us. We are to regard their work, note it, and give the workers reverence. There shouldn’t be anyone whose work is going unappreciated, but too often there is. Too often the person who cleans the meeting place, who opens her home for fellowship, or who makes the calls to the visitors and absent are overlooked. But when everyone in the church is serving, then most of us will remember to appreciate all the others, and the burden on everyone is lightened. We are all expected to serve. Our gifts were given to us for a reason. Ephesians 4:11-16 says it like this,
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
We are also to give deference to those who are over us, submitting to their wisdom, maturity, and leadership as they guide us toward completion. Hebrews 13:17 says,
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
In submitting to, respecting, and esteeming one another and the contributions each of us makes to the body, we have peace among us. We don’t need to be jealous, envious, or disrespectful of each other. We are in it together, sharing the same Spirit and the same mission. We want the best for each other. We are family, we are interwoven together, each thread is needed and adds to the beauty of the tapestry.
We cannot in love, let someone waste their gifts or remain a new born who never experiences the fullness of Christ during this life. Verse 14-15 puts it this way,
“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.”
Our unified walk as the body of Christ does not stop at the church doors. We are good to one another, but we also must be good to the world. We should be beneficent, that is intentionally doing good in a concrete way. We deliberately ensure we are not being maleficent, which is to cause harm. Nonmaleficence should be just as premeditated as beneficence.
Hebrews 13:15-16 reads,
“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
It is an act of worship and praise to be charitable and kind. It is glorifying Christ, that is reflecting Jesus, being like Jesus to do good for people. Verses 16-18 say,
“Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
When do we rejoice? When do we pray? When do we thank God and what do we thank Him for? Always, continually, and all the time, for everything. The Holy Spirit wants to shine through us. He wants to glorify Jesus in us. He wants to fill us to overflowing and show us He can’t be exhausted. Verses 19-22 read,
“Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.”
He cannot be exhausted, but He can be quenched, that is stifled, smothered, and left to smolder instead of burn bright. How do we do that? We do it by not rejoicing, praying, and thanking God. We do it by not recognizing that our circumstances have the purpose of conforming us to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:26-30). We stifle the Holy Spirit of God when we disregard His work, or we accept all works that might be from God are and do not discern Godly from worldly. (1 John 4:1-6). We douse His fire in us when we take part in the desires of the flesh instead of the desires of The Spirit.
The muffled and subdued Spirit will not produce the fruit that makes it evident we are sons and daughters of Abba God. Galatians 5:16-26 reads,
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
The fruit of The Spirit is the image of Christ. As we walk, we become more and more mature, showing more and more the character of Jesus. One day we will be instantly perfected but that doesn’t mean we do not strive toward that goal now. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, Philippians 3:12-14). We trust the Lord to complete us and keep us. Verses 23-24 read,
“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
God does this great work in us. He perfects us. He doesn’t and won’t do it against our will. We have to be in a relationship with Him. We have to want it. And so we pray, we love, we walk, and we strive, not in a futile struggle, but in the peaceful rest of Jesus’ grace. Verses 25-28 close the letter.
“Brothers, pray for us.
26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”