9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.I remember in our church every time we had finished taken the the Lord Supper, we would read the Church Covenant and there is a part there that says:
“We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.”These words remind me that wherever we go as family, the first priority for us to look for a local church where we can serve God. So it makes me sad that many people claims to be Christian but do not want to be part of a local church. It just doesn’t make sense. In order for us to have a clear understanding of or passage, we have to read it in its context. In verses 1 and 2, Paul talks about spiritual worship and in verse 3 to eight, he talks about our humble service to the body of Christ by using our spiritual gifts. We need to understand that Paul refers specifically to the local church because every believer should commit to serve God through a local church.
Some believers would make excuse that it is not necessary because they are part of the universal invisible church. Warren Weirsbe tells a story of a free-lance missionary that visited a pastor friend asking for financial support. "What group are you associated with?" his friend asked. The man replied, "I belong to the invisible church." His friend then asked, "Well, what church are you a member of?" Again he got the answer, "I belong to the invisible church!" Getting a bit suspicious, his friend asked, "When does this invisible church meet? Who pastors it?" The missionary then became incensed and said, "Well, your church here isn't the true church. I belong to the invisible church!" His friend replied, "Well, here's some invisible money to help you in your invisible church!" God called us to serve Him in a local church through our worship (12:1-2), our service by using our spiritual gifts and then by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This morning the word of God challenges us to follow Jesus command to love one another. We follow Jesus example when he demonstrates his love when he died on the cross to suffer in our behalf. He did not do that because he wants to do something nice for us but because of his obedience to the Father. By following Christ’s example, we are commanded by the Father to love every person in the body of Christ.
Love in the body of Christ must be sincere (12:9a)The English word “sincere” comes from two Latin words meaning “without wax.” In Paul’s time, potters would sometimes take wax and fill in the gaps in broken or cracked pottery. Then they would paint over the wax and sell it. The only problem was that when someone bought this pottery and put something hot in it the wax would melt and it would leak. Good potters distanced themselves from this practice by saying that their pottery was “sine-cere,” meaning it was pure with no wax. Likewise, our love must not have cracks in it, or wax that is simply a cover-up. The Greek word that Paul uses means “without hypocrisy.” The word was used of the masks used by actors on the stage.
During Paul’s time, the actors used the mask to show the role that he was playing not his true character. Paul says that our love for one another should be without mask, but rather should be real. We should truly desire God’s best for others. Now, I think the question is how we can love our brothers and sisters in Christ in the church, John puts it very clearly in 1 John 3:16-18, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”
Love in the body of Christ must be holy (12:9b)Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. In order for love to be sincere, it must also be discerning. Love should know what is good and what is evil. It never endorses or encourages in others attitudes or behaviour that is evil. Rather it embraces what is good in God’s sight. God’s standard of what is evil and what is good does not change with the times or with different cultures. God reveals his holy standards of right and wrong in His Word. For example, when the Bible say that homosexual behaviour is sinful, then it does not changes even if public opinion polls or scientists say it is acceptable. If it is sin in God’s sight, then it is not loving to treat such behaviour as morally acceptable, because sin hurts people. Instead, the loving thing to do is to gently and with compassion, tell that person about his sin and point him to Christ so that he can be saved before his sin destroys him.
Also Paul does not just say to avoid evil, we are to hate it. It is an strong emotional reaction against all that do not please God. Since God hates sin, we should also hate sin. We should not laugh at evil or be entertained by evil. The opposite of hating evil is to cling to what is good. The word “cling” is quite descriptive. It means to stick to something like glue; to hold fast, to join or keep company. It has the idea of tying ourselves to what is good. We must focus our minds on what is good and make sure that we keep company with people who will build us up, make sure we’re connected to church, and that we’re equipped to serve. We can flip it because they are really two sides to the same coin. The more you cling constantly to what is good, the easier it will be to hate what is evil. The word “good” was used of things that were morally good and beneficial or useful for a productive Christian life.
7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. -1 Thessalonians 4:7-8
Love in the body of Christ must be brotherly (12:10a)Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Here Paul is challenging us to love as family members love. Here’s the deal. When we come a Christian we only get a birthday present called spiritual gift, we also become part of a new family. Each one of us is a child of God so we are a brothers and sisters to each other. The Christian community is composed of people from very different cultures. In the New Testament the church is composed of Greeks, Jews, Barbarians, Slaves, and free men and women but because of their faith they become one family in God.
I believe it is not different from our present situation, we are all very different people but because of our faith in Christ, we become one family. Everyone of us has a family. There are times when we are not in talking terms with a member of our family. We fight, we argue and don’t talk with each other for a long time but we still love each other. The kind of love we should express within our families, is to be the kind of love God expects for us to express within the local Church: The church, is first and foremost the family of God, and each member of that family is important, with no distinctions, no discriminations.
Love in the body of Christ must be humble (12:10b)
Honour one another above yourselves.The word “honour” literally means to put a “heavy weight.” It implies that we assign the greatest possible weight to a person in terms of respect by holding them in “high regard.” To honour someone is to measure his or her value on a scale and conclude that it is “heavy.” On the other hand, to “dishonour” means to treat someone as if they were “light or insignificant.” It would be used to describe a child that treats his parents lightly because he or she does not value them. We’re called to prefer others above ourselves. The idea is that we will take the lead in showing the honour that is due to each other in the family of God.
This passage means that we do not wait around for people to recognise what we are doing good and praise us. Instead, we should be alter to what others are doing good and honour them. We are not to seek honour for ourselves, but rather we truly rejoice when others receive honour and we don not. It is easily said but it is hard to practice. If we will keep this principle in our hearts we will never look down upon other people especially our brothers and sisters in the church because at the very moment we look down on them, we actually are putting ourselves lower than them.
Let us think of this truth always if you heard someone who are putting down a brother or a sister in Christ consider other Christians as second class citizen, according to God’s Word he or she is actually lower than the person he is putting down. So when Paul says, “honour one another above yourselves,” he doesn’t mean that we should deny our gifts or knowledge. Rather, he means that we should have a true estimate of ourselves. We should not over-estimate ourselves and under-estimate others. As Paul says in 1 Cortinthians 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
ConclusionIt would not take you too long to live in Mae Sai to realise that some Christians lack commitment to a particular local church. And I cannot blame them, there are just too many local churches here. They have a lot of options. I know a village that have five small churches and two Bible schools. I wonder how much influence they have in the community. In fact, I know a Christian leader who moved here last year and in just a few months was able to start a new local church disregarding local churches that are already existing. I am not saying that it is bad, I even think it is good. But I believe if we Christians want to have a weight in this predominantly Buddhist nation, we should better get our acts together.
And we can start by committing ourselves to a local church: commit ourselves to Jesus Christ who is the head of the church and commit ourselves to the members of the local church we are a part. How can we do that? By keeping this verse always in our hearts: Love one another sincerely, hate evil and cling to what is good, be devoted in loving one another like a family and honour one another above yourselves.
Before I close I want to read part of the church covenant: We engage by the aid of the Holy Spirit, to walk together in Christian love; to strive for the advancement of this church, in knowledge, holiness and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer, to help each other in sickness; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation.