We are well aware that Jesus said, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34), but that sometimes does not come as easily as it could or should even (and often especially) in the church. Because of this reality, Pastor and author John Piper gives us six guidelines for loving each other, which I find extremely helpful:
- Let’s avoid gossiping.
- Let’s identify evidence of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other.
- Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.
- Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.
- Let’s think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.
- Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right. And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel. (from the Desiring God website: www.desiringgod.org, August 4, 2009)
I do feel indicted by several of these, and what they say we should do helps me to approach any future difficult encounter with someone in the church from a more loving, uniting perspective. We are all in this together after all, this journey of faith. Why not make this journey working together, not separately or in opposition to one another?
All of these guidelines do not come from a vacuum, of course. There is biblical grounding for them, most clearly in Romans 12:9-10, 14, 16-18:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Live in harmony with one another. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
The last verse strikes me most. It acknowledges that we can only do what is in our power to do to live peaceably (As far as it depends on you … ). What others may or may not do is out of our control. The other thing that resonates with me are the two words: with all. We are to live peaceably with all, not just some people, but all people. This is a one-size-fits-all proposition. Be peaceable with everyone! That will go a long way toward greater unity.