Sunday, April 1, 2012

Love One Another

The little-known prophet Micah wrote a familiar passage of Scripture: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I would like to extend Micah’s question and ask us at Windsor Chapel: What does the Lord require of us? Jesus proclaimed to His disciples that they were a city on a hill, called by Him to be a light to all who have not heard the Gospel (Matt. 5:14). That light is powerfully described in Jesus’s words recorded in the Gospel of John: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

So, then, if Windsor Chapel is indeed the body of Christ and is to fulfill its God-ordained purposes, we must love one another. There are many facets to this calling; I would like to focus us on one particular element. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul gives these instructions: We are to lay aside falsehood; and we are to speak truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:17, 25).

“Speaking the truth in love” is certainly worthy of our attention. Too often, we are not very good at this skill. I would contend, however, that speaking truth is a skill that we can learn by applying God’s truth to our hearts and our lives.

Our ability to speak truth in love to one another depends on our relationship with our Lord and Master. If we are operating from a position of insecurity, we will find ourselves nudged into the “Compare and Compete” game. Our pride will make it difficult for us to affirm and encourage a brother or sister because the “what about me?” voice gets in the way. If we are secure in being the object of our Master’s delight, we will be able to eagerly “share the love” with those we encounter.

But what happens when we have something challenging or unaffirming to say to someone? Again, there are two points of departure, each with a different outcome. If we are insecure and playing the Compare and Compete game, we will be pleased to speak our truth without love because it makes us feel good about ourselves. This is destructive to a relationship and completely counter to our Lord’s desire and intent.

Now we arrive at a particularly challenging point. What do we do when we are trying to maintain a secure identity as a bond-servant of Christ and we have a relational issue with a brother or sister, or when we’re hurt or concerned about the words or actions of a brother or sister? It is my observation that we rarely speak the truth in love to the other party. Sometimes we stew in silence, or withdraw, hoping to be pursued. Sometimes we leave a ministry or even a church. At our worst, we gossip or make negative comments about the other party to others.

There are many excuses for not speaking the truth in love: I don’t want to create conflict; I don’t want to hurt feelings; it wouldn’t be “nice;” it wasn’t that big a deal; it was my own fault; I am making too much of it. Some of these statements may be legitimate, but they do not excuse us from the Lord’s command to speak the truth to one another in love. The aforementioned excuses are usually an attempt to protect ourselves from the stress of potential conflict or pain of ruptured relationship.

So once again I return to the foundational importance of having our identity and value secure in Christ. It is from that foundation that we can relinquish our desire to protect ourselves and prosper God’s work among us by speaking the truth in love. Certainly God does not call us to be “sin police” and be on perpetual “patrol.” It is not our duty to point out every weakness or detail every error. Each of us, however, has the privilege of being a brother or sister to other believers. If we truly care about one another, and if we truly desire to grow in Christ, then we will take the risk of speaking the truth in love and also welcome such words with thanksgiving. As we reach this level of intimacy and trust, our relationships will truly manifest the love of Christ and we will be a beacon in our world.