BELIEVERS: IN SEARCH OF A UNITED FAMILY
EDET B. EFFIOM
What unites members of a family, is it the family’s assets, social class, her leadership, or belief? I do not think so. These are all importance to each family, but quite often, none can by itself unites any family; on the contrary, sometimes, any of them can constitute an obstacle for the family’s unity. Then what is a family’s uniting factor? You may ask.
The unique provider of a lasting unity in a family is love; with it, families, irrespective of size, race, social class, or ideological inclination, are subconsciously bound together. This is the reason members of a family often cling together, confronting an affliction in unison; even when there seems to be an enmity, love still subsist. Love existed before the creation, and will ever remain until, and in eternity; 1 Corinthians 13: 13 confirms this, and even added that this element is the greatest of all the gifts. This is because love is God, and God is love
Believers—those who believe that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only Lord and Saviour, who came and sacrifice his life on the cross, to reconcile His believers with His Father in Heaven, and will return to take His followers. These believers, regardless of their nationality, race, or social class, constitute the church; so there is only one church—one family of God in the world, and this goes beyond denomination, because in Heaven which is all Believers’ ultimate destination, there will be neither Catholic, nor Protestant; neither will there be a small nor a mega church.
Within God’s family, is there love—the prerequisite for unity? If there is, how strong is it? Before going further, it is better to understand the type of love that can bind Believers, enabling them to withstand the hostile world around, in unison. The love that we Believers need among us in God’s family is the one Apostle John highlighted in 1 John 3:16, which reads, “We know what real love is from Christ’s example in dying for us”. This means that, Christians ought to love themselves beyond denominational lines, and it should be a sacrificial love. This type of love that made God to send His only Son Jesus Christ to come and die for our sins, so that we will not perish, but have eternal life, as the Gospel of John 3:16 states.
Unlike the secular perception, genuine and profound love is not simply warm feelings; instead, it is an attitude that reveals itself in action. At this point, you may be wondering how we can love each other as Jesus loves us. This could be done by helping each other when it’s not convenient; by giving when it’s hurts; by devoting our energy to one another’s welfare, rather than to only our own; by absorbing hurts without complaining or revenging. This kind of love is hard to have. That is why people will notice when we practise it, and they will know that a supernatural source empowers us, because love is a divine attribute, and can only be obtained from a divine being and by a divine grace.
There are some implicit effects of love that most people rarely realise—even its advocates. As already mentioned, the accompanying element of love is action, which means helping, caring, and rendering un-rewarded services to the beloved. These products of love give the one who loves a tremendous feeling of happiness, high self-esteem, and enthusiasm. In order words, loving others bring about happiness. This is the only source of genuine happiness.
Most of us have learned how to pretend to love others—how to speak kindly, avoid hurting others’ feelings, and appear to take an interest in them. We may even be skilled in pretending to ourselves—we feel moved with compassion when we hear of others’ dilemma, and needs. However, this is not the type of love that Christ commanded us to have, because real love requires work. It means doing something for the people we love and care for, so that they will be better people. It demands our time, resources, and our personal involvement. In other words, love as commanded by Jesus is both action and attitude oriented—there is no true love without action.
Distance should not be an obstacle to our demonstration of love for our fellow Believers, as it can even be done through prayers. Prayers and practical demonstration of Christians’ love for each other was demonstrated in many New Testament churches as well as during the communist era, when believers were praying for our brothers and sisters in the communist countries and evening sending things to them. In this area, it is worth acknowledging the wonderful works that many missions are doing, reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Christ, with material, physical, and spiritual needs, in many parts of the work. We have to be supporting them constantly prayer, and when possible, practically. By practical support here, I mean financially, or sending the needed materials.
As loving and caring for other members of our family far away has been tremendous, could our effort to those around us win such applause? I do not think so. Even within the same community, many people care less of others. Many Christians even see others in other congregations as their direct competitors, and sometimes, they accuse, condemn, and point fingers on each other. Thus, they seldom work together in furthering the Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour. With these, they ignorantly play into Satan’s hands, helping him to paralyse or destroy the body of Christ.
Why should we love each other? The answer is simple! Believers should love each other because Chris so instruct us. The Gospel of John 13:34 clearly states this, as it reads, “And so I am giving a new commandment to you now—love each other just as much as I love you. Your strong love for each other will prove to the world that you are my disciples”. Jesus gave this commandment to his disciples.
Let us take a few minutes to analyse the just-read passage. First, it is worth noting that, Jesus was neither giving an advice, nor was he making a suggestion—it was a direct command. In the military, when a leader or a commander gives a command, what does he expect from his soldiers? He expects an unquestionable and an immediate obedience. This is exactly what God expects from us.
Verse 35 of the just read passage points out why Christ commanded us to love each other. It mentions that, our sacrificial love for one another will not only bring unbelievers to Christ, but it will also bring about a strong unity between us. When we unite, the impact of our spiritual unity is phenomenal, because it opens the door of Heaven, and God readily answer our prayers; when this happens, the Devil and his principalities tremble.
Now let us examine ourselves. With all that have been said so far, can we proudly and unequivocally declare before God and man that we’ve undoubtedly obey Christ’s command to love one another? I have to confess that, if Jesus is to ask me of an account of my obedience to his command, I will be ashamed to look at Him. He will be disappointed in me, because most of the time, I never think of others and their needs, but myself, my children, my family at home, and my problems here in this difficult world. What do you think about this command, which is the heart of Christianity? How often have you been thinking of meeting your fellow Christians’ needs? How regularly have you been praying for your brothers and sisters in distress in other countries or continents? What is your reaction when somebody complains to you against your fellow brother or sister in Christ? Does your response edify God, or does it magnify the problem? Do not forget that an indifference reaction or response, instead of showing neutrality, indicates both hypocrisy and lack of interest in your brother or sisters’ problems.
The starting point of our entrusted responsibility in the body of Christ is for us to practise the Christ-like love for one another. If we are full of God’s love for each other, through the Holy Spirit, which indwells in us, it will overflow in our congregation, the body of Christ, and in our community, because love is contagious. It is not enough for us to be merely courteous with one another; we must also be showing our mutual love persistently. Our love should be continuously growing. Whenever our capacity to love one another tends to be stagnant, we have to ask God to refill us with his boundless supply, and He will definitely grant us through His Spirit in us. Then, with our given love, we have to look for opportunities to express it. The more we do so, the more the Holy Spirit will fill us with it.
Individual Believers, as well as different denominations should work together towards accomplishing the great commission—spreading the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, because there are millions of people out there who need it. We should not allow Satan to use us to destabilize God’s work, through finger pointing, criticism, gossiping, and being judgmental to each other. None of these attitudes is Christ-like but the work of the enemy. Judgment belongs to God. Besides, by judging others, we implicitly proclaim to be better than them, which we are not, because it is only through the Grace of God that we are justified. By judging our fellow brothers and sisters, we expose ourselves to God’s judgement.
Furthermore, each member of a family often has different and unique gifts and potentialities, so are different members, and congregations. So as members of God’s family, churches should pray for each other’s mission, and for churches’ leaders in the world, irrespective of their denomination. God gives different mission to different churches; thus, there should be no competition, but they should be each other’s complement, in their pursuance of their God-given missions.
We should seek God’s will for us as individuals, as well as a congregation, and ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us towards fulfilling God’s will for us, regardless of the congregation, community, even country or continent. In addition, church leaders should strive for more interdenominational cooperation. As individuals, we were not created to live in isolation, so also are churches and denominations, because “Together we stand, and divided we fall”.
I strongly believe that, if we ask God to give us the Spirit of love, as he is a faithful, loving, and gracious father, he will give us beyond our expectations. Secondly, if we love one another as Christ love us and commanded us to do, the intensity of our mutual love, and the unity that it will bring between us, will shine like a light beyond our congregation. This luminosity within our fellowship with one another, can give life to our congregation in particular, and the whole family of God in general, and it could also affect people around us; thereby, bringing them to our God’s family, in order for them to find out the source of our love and unity. This can eventually make them to give their lives to Christ.
I pray that Almighty God, by his grace, will fill us, the member of His family with His Spirit of love, and the ability to express it as he commanded us, so that we will be His light within the body of Believers, so that His name will be glorified.
The author also has an inspiration book entitled, "In search of Success", that he's yet to get a publisher for its publication.
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