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We talk a lot about love in the Christian church. Rightly so, since love is at the center of our message, the gospel (John 3:16). But what does it mean to love other Christians? Is it really that important? Can’t we just live out the Christian life on our own?

The Westminster Confession of Faith tells us that we as believers owe one another “holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to their several abilities and necessities” (WCF 26.2). Regular attendance at corporate worship is a major part of how we fulfill this duty. We join our fellow believers in hearing from the Word, partaking of the sacraments, praying together, mingling our voices in songs of praise, and confessing our shared faith.

Our love for one another has as its basis the love that God has for us in Christ.

We are also called to relieve our fellow believers’ outward needs as we are able. This can take the form of giving to the church’s deacons’ fund, giving to missions work, or participating directly in relief efforts—making meals for new mothers, visiting the sick and homebound, or pitching in after disasters.

Our being one body in Christ has important implications for our relationships with other believers. John tells us that we are to love one another, “for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). John also records Christ’s words along the same lines: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35). Our love for one another has as its basis the love that God has for us in Christ.

God’s love for us works itself out in our lives in various ways. It moves us to respond to God in love, and it moves us to love our brothers and sisters in the faith (1 John 4:11–12; 5:1–3). This is because we are one body, the body of Christ. No one hates his own body, but desires what is good for it (Eph. 5:29); in the same way, those who are united to the body of Christ do their part to care for that body. We worship together, use our God-given gifts for the benefit of the body, suffer together, rejoice together, and bear one another’s burdens (1 Cor. 12:12–31; Gal. 6:2).

John warns that if we are not moved in this way, it might be that we are not part of the body (1 John 4:20). Anyone who separates himself from this body has no basis for security. There is no sense in the Bible of a lone Christian: we are united in Christ as the new temple of God (Eph. 2:19–22). Christ does not dwell within anyone who is not united to that body.

So, friends, let us not forsake the holy fellowship of the body of Christ, but let us love one another, encourage one another, and care for one another (1 John 4:21; Heb. 10:23–25).

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From the June 2018 Issue
Jun 2018 Issue