How important are relationships within the Body of Christ?
This question is prompted by the state of affairs in what we broadly refer to as “the world.” The world is a generic term for planet earth and all life on it, including human civilization. We use it generally to address our environment.
Currently, much press is devoted to the subject of the rise of nationalism. Remember how globalization once held out the carrot of the world coming together in one big homogenization of nations and states? It was more often spoken of in terms of a global economy. We now know that globalization failed. Instead, we see the emergence of what is being called “Identity Politics” and the “New Tribalism.” This is a form of polarization that has as its underpinning an emphasis on self. This should not surprise us as we know the god of this world is a self-promoter. The rise of nationalism is seeing self-interest being expressed in terms of recognition. It is the demand to be recognized and respected for what we are. We all realize that what we are now covers every conceivable human behavior.
This should raise our level of concern for Church relationships. Since we live in the world, we are not immune from worldly influences. If members were to allow self-interest to motivate a need for recognition as we are, it would seriously damage our growing into “…the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
The Apostle Paul said we should not be children, tossed to and fro by the winds of the world’s trends because it works against the unity of the body. As the world fragments into ever smaller identity groups focused on self, the Church should be growing in its solidarity by every part doing its share to cause growth in the body (see Ephesians 4:16).
Clearly, our relationships within the body are an important factor in achieving this. A personal relationship with God cannot be separated from our personal relationship with each other. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love … Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).
Loving one another is not based on personality or just liking people with whom we are comfortable. We love because we are “born of God” – i.e., we have God’s spirit, and we are able to express God’s love by that means and not just by our own preferences.
What can we do to demonstrate love to one another?
Firstly, prayer is a major player. As James makes clear, we should pray for one another that we may be healed. He also pointed out the benefits of fervent prayer of a righteous person availing much. It is very reassuring when you are sick, to know that people are praying for you.
Develop a habit of actually praying at the time you become aware of someone’s need. Avoid saying “praying for you” without the action. Remember, “… if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31).
Secondly, communicate your love and concern. Taking the time to select a card, write something thoughtful and personal and sending it sends a message. A phone call or an email can also serve to communicate. Remember, not everyone is on Facebook or has access to other forms of social media.
Thirdly, faith without works is dead. “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (James 2:15-17).
Christ said that if we do a good work for other brethren, we have done it unto Him. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).
Let’s all give serious consideration to “… this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). Not just in word, but in deed.