“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,” Ephesians 1:15-16
It’s almost astonishing to me how many times I’ve heard people say that they don’t like Christians. Even more shocking is when that statement flows from the lips of those who would call themselves Christians. As the saying goes, “They will know we are Christians by our love”…Something is terribly wrong with this picture.
The apostle Paul addresses this letter to the church in Ephesus by starting with a detailed description of their identity in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14), which we’ve just spent the last two weeks studying together. After he lays the foundation for who we are in Christ, he begins to speak to some of the qualities that those who are in Christ should possess. Not surprisingly, he starts with LOVE.
Jesus’ very own words in Matthew 22:37-40 tell us of the importance of love and how much it matters to God. In essence, Jesus tells those who are listening that the most important calling we have on this earth is first to love God and second to love people. Paul had such a traumatic conversion experience that it doesn’t take him long at all to get on board with what mattered most to Jesus. So, he starts with the necessity of love.
Let’s note something of vital importance here, though. Paul isn’t praising the Ephesians for simply loving well. He finds reason for great thanksgiving because the Ephesians have been found loving other believers well. We have to get one thing straight here before moving on. God loves His church, and He requires that we, as Christ followers, do the same.
So, do we? Do we love God’s people? Do we love His church? Or do we find every reason under the sun to ridicule, criticize, and grow embittered toward “Christians”? I know full well that many “Christians” have run that name through the mud. I know that many “Christians” have used God and His Word as a weapon of abuse. I know that the church hasn’t always gotten it right. However, we are called to love other believers with fervency. It was this very love that made front page news to Paul and caused him to find great joy and a reason for thanksgiving, even though he penned the words of this letter to the Ephesians while in chains in prison.
When we love other believers well, an unbelieving world finally sees the love that makes us a family, and they will want to be a part of it. When we fail at this calling to love other Christians, we give the world every excuse to keep on despising us. If we can’t even love each other, how on earth are we going to love those who aren’t a part of us?
This matters. It’s not a back burner issue. God cares deeply about the care and well-being of His church. And we should, too. So, do we? Do you? Do you love Christians? The more we know WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST, the more we will behave as though WE ARE IN CHRIST. This is our identity. This is our calling. Walk in it.