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Encouragements to Practice Christian Love

In Local Churches

By Jon Zens

1.  If a man is lost in Adam we must in love exhort him to faith in Christ and repentance towards God.

2.  If a person is a brother or sister in Christ we must love them as Christ loved us (constantly, sacrificially, unconditionally) (John 13:34, 1 John 3:16).

3.  In general, Christians are to concretely edify (build up) one another as functioning priests in a local church (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 5:11, 14). Edification is realized through mutual support, encouragement, admonition, and has as its goal our conformity to the image of Christ (Romans 15:14; Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25; 1 Peter 4:10; Romans 8:29).

4.  In general, brothers and sisters are to fervently love one another, with a love that covers a multitude of sins, with a love that is quick to forgive, forbear, and that is always kind and longsuffering (1 Peter 1:22, 3:8, 4:8; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians  3:13).

5.  In all these duties, our words play a prominent role. Our mouths are to be used to build up, not to tear down (Colossians 3:8, 16; Ephesians 4:29, 31, 5:4; 1 Pet.4:11; James 3:10). We must consciously make edification the goal of our speech, and avoid speaking evil of others, when we have not gone to the brother with our reservations. Love ‘thinks no evil” (1 Cor.13:5).

6.  In general, we are to strive in our actions and words for things that make for peace (Romans 12:18). We must pursue peace and make peace in our relationships with men. Being a “peacemaker” means that we will (1) follow Biblical principles to resolve sinful conflicts and problems; and (2) order our lives with a view toward effecting and promoting harmony (Matthew 5:9; Hebrews 12:14).

7.  If a brother in Christ has something against you, you are to go to him and be reconciled (Matthew 5:23-24).

8.  If we have something against another brother, we are to go to him and be reconciled (Matthew 18:15).

9.  If a strong brother partakes of something you abstain from, you are not to judge him (Romans 14:3).

10.  If a weak brother abstains from something you enjoy, you are not to despise him (Romans 14:3).

11.  In all things, weak and strong brethren are to seek one another’s welfare by pursuing peace and edification (Romans 14:19). Paul did not tell the vegetable-eater to start eating meat; nor did he tell the meat-eater to stop eating meat (Romans 14:2-3). Rather, Paul exhorts them both to have a Christ-honoring attitude of respect toward one another (Romans 15:1-3, 7).

12. If a saint falls into sin, we are to care for him by confronting the problem with a view toward his restoration (Galatians 6:1-2; Matthew 18:15-16).

13.  If a saint who has fallen into sin repents, we are to forgive and receive him (Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8).

14.  If a professing brother has fallen into sin, has been lovingly confronted (Matthew 18:15-16), and refuses to repent, the church must put him out of the assembly (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:2, 7). Even this purging out of leaven is done in hopes of the ultimate restoration of the offender.

15.  If we know (or believe) that a brother has something against us, or if we know we have something against a brother, or if we know (or believe) a brother is in some sin, or if we — for any reason — feel alienated from a brother, and we do not go to that brother for healing, we sin against Christ and our brother. The New Testament stresses the bond of fellowship among brethren. If we believe that this bond is broken, we are obliged to go to others and heal the breach. This does not mean that we must all agree on everything. But it does mean that we cannot harbor bad thoughts about others.

16.  If a brother is walking disorderly (“out of ranks”), the brethren are to withdraw from him in order that he might be ashamed (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14). In such cases, the person is to be admonished as a brother, not treated as an enemy (2 Thessalonians 3:15). The goal here is for the brother to be brought back into step with apostolic teachings (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 10, 14).

These propositions by no means exhaust the demands of love in Christian relationships. But I do believe that they isolate our basic duties to one another. I am convinced that these duties are scarcely practiced as they should be in our churches, and insufficiently reflected upon in our Christian experience. It is hard to go to another saint and deal with a problemBut love cares and love disciplinesWe are in fact unloving if we skirt these duties in the name of “peace.”

Brothers and sisters, after you have read over and meditated on these propositions, I trust that the Spirit will move you to take action regarding the general and specific duties given in the New Testament. If we hear, but do not practice, we deceive ourselves (James 1:22). If we hear and do these things, we will be happy and blessed (John 13:17; 15:11).

“This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

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