Editor’s Note: This week we welcome David Hundert as guest blogger!
In this week’s five-part series on one of the most repeated phrases in the New Testament, “love one another,” we’ve leaned that it is no small task. Perhaps at this point you’re wondering, “That’s a lot! I don’t know if I can do that.” If so, what can help us to follow through with loving one another? In Romans 15:5-6, the Apostle Paul has this helpful word for us: “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here Paul is returning to his central theme, which is restoring the unity of the Roman church. He addresses God as “the God of endurance and comfort,” or, we can legitimately paraphrase it as, “the God who is the source of endurance and comfort.” God alone is certainly the author of patience and consolation; for he delivers this to our hearts by his Spirit: using his word as the instrument. We accomplish this task of loving one another, when we spend time in His word and in prayer. When we intentionally spend time with the Lord, it reminds us not only who we are, but whose we are.
If you’re wondering, “I’m already doing that…Am I missing something?” I can tell you that by asking that question, it helps us to remember the next verse, Romans 15:7 where Paul writes, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Here, Paul’s command that believers “accept one another” brings this section to its climax. “Accept” means more than just “tolerate” or “give official recognition to”; Paul wants Christians to accept one another as fellow members of a family, with all the love and concern that should characterize brothers and sisters. There should be genuine love and concern for one another.
Have you ever attended a church, where people say things like, “Hey! How are you?” and yet they really don’t care or really don’t want to hear your answer? I can tell you from personal experience that I’ve heard that response to that particular question for many years, and I got into the habit of just answering that question with a “Great! How are you?” with equal nonchalance. However, this isn’t what we are supposed to be doing! We accomplish this task of loving one another, when we can look one another in the eye and ask that question and really mean it! When we can ask that question, and really want to know and hear the answer, that’s one way we are loving one another!
If you’re wondering, “Is there anything that I can do that can help assist with this?”, in 1 Corinthians 12:24-26, Paul has an answer for us. This is the part of 1 Corinthians where Paul is comparing the Church to the human body: “While our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
Most likely, what Paul means here is that the parts that appear to be weak and less worthy are in fact deserving of the greater honor or should be the ones receiving special attention. It’s sufficient at this point, for Paul to say that the body is created by God Himself. With that, the first part of his analogy is relatively easy to understand. I’m sure that you can imagine the difficulty someone might have trying to study when that person has a toothache; their whole body suffers when the one part that is aching. However, this is what Paul uses to describe how we are to be toward one another. We are one body in Christ and individually members of it, therefore we are members of one another. We need to reflect the empathy needed to understand when our brothers and sisters are suffering. We need to be able to come along and lift our brothers and sisters onto our shoulders and celebrate their successes! When someone struggles, we all struggle. When one wins, we all win. We accomplish this task of loving one another, when we can set aside our personal pride for the sake of the whole.
But how do we Christians do that? In the next post in this series, we’ll learn more!