Loving other members of the “church body” can be a thorny practice filled with complexities. Most of us struggle with this idea of loving other Christians, especially those who are different from ourselves. I’ve certainly had some battles in this area and continue to seek God’s wisdom and answers. Within the last few months an analogy has come to me that has given me a clearer picture as to what it means to be part of the “body of Christ”.
Another term for the body of Christ that is used in 2 Cor.11 is the “bride of Christ”. Being part of the body of Christ is like being a partner in a marriage. When we take our vows to live as followers of Christ we are also taking a vow to love other followers of Christ (unwittingly or otherwise). The apostle Paul said, “I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law,” in Romans 7:25 The implication of the term slave is that we have no choice but to follow Christ’s commands. One of Jesus’ main commands is to “love one another,” or to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
In a marriage there are a great many choices, are there not?
A person can choose to speak solely to their spouse concerning his or her faults rather than complaining about their spouse’s faults to others. A person can choose to forgive their spouse even when their spouse has betrayed them in some way instead of withholding grace. A person can choose to resolve differences quickly rather than holding a grudge. A person can accept their spouse where they are at instead of comparing their spouse to others. A person can make a concerted effort to learn how to deal with conflict in a healthy manner instead of griping or nagging at their spouse. A person can choose to cherish, honor and love their spouse and to find ways to be an encouragement and an ally no matter what. The quality of the relationship is largely dependant upon these choices.
Being part of the body of believers requires that we make those exact same choices as we interact with one another. For the record, no, we do not have to be best friends with everyone but we do have to be loving. Just the same as in a marriage, there are boundaries. Where there is conflict we must work to resolve it. If someone is unrepentantly abusive or consistently unfaithful to Christ, we must separate ourselves from him or her. If someone wants to leave and will not listen to reason, we must let them go. These are the very few exceptions to the rule, however. For all the other times one or the other of us behaves in an unloving manner, we have no excuse. We can’t kick them out of the house for petty reasons. We do have to keep our “vows” to love one another even when things are hard.
I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward for all of eternity.
To be able to love like that, for me, requires Christ. I cannot love like that on my own.
I realize that this may sound a little crazy – radical or simplistic – but love really does conquer all. Love never fails. Love NEVER fails. Guess what? Selfishness fails. Hate fails. Indifference fails. Self-protectiveness fails. Impatience and unkindness fail. Unrighteous anger fails. The quest for knowledge and desire to conquer the unknown fails. Self-righteousness, contempt and pride fail. Have any of us ever heard of these things bringing about miraculous good?