Having taken most of the Summer months off from my blog, I thought I would begin this Fall season with a topic that I think is extremely relevant and applicable to our daily lives.
What does Scripture say about how we are to treat one another – specifically as brothers and sisters in Christ?
At the center of what Scripture says about how we are to treat one another is the command to “love one another.”
What I have found so often throughout my years of pastoral and missions leadership is that we all tend to focus on how someone else has not “loved me like the Bible says they should” and therefore (we think) that gives us the right to not treat them in a loving manner back (it doesn’t).
This is tragically similar to behavior on par with Jr. High students: “They hurt me so I’m not talking to them anymore!” or “Their academic or athletic achievements exceed my own, so I’m going to find ways to cut them down and say unkind things about them.”
Jealousy, unkindness and unforgiveness often rule the halls of most Jr. High Schools. And sadly, also among many Christians. That should trouble us – deeply and profoundly!
We can’t control whether other people act in a loving and forgiving manner, but we can control (and are responsible before God for) our own actions and attitudes.
I find that we so often forget that at the heart of loving one another is “forgiving one another.” You cannot have love for a fellow brother or sister in Christ without also having forgiveness toward them.
So often when someone hurts us, offends us, disappoints us or lets us down, we begin to carry a grudge toward them…a tiny seed of bitterness creeps into our heart and if we are not careful, can spread pervasive poison throughout our soul.
As the Apostle Paul wrote…
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32 NASB)
Refusing to forgive a person that has hurt us ultimately harms us.
It’s like the well-known saying…
“Refusing to forgive someone (and therefore holding a grudge) is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
The late Francis Schaeffer, in his book The Mark of the Christian, wrote the following…
“We should never come to [differences] with true Christians without regret and without tears. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Believe me, evangelicals often have not shown it. We rush in, being very, very pleased, it would seem at times, to find other men’s mistakes. We build ourselves up by tearing other men down. This can never show a real oneness among Christians. There is only one kind of man who can fight the Lord’s battles in anywhere near a proper way, and that is the man who by nature is un-belligerent. A belligerent man tends to do it because he is belligerent; at least it looks that way. The world must observe that, when we must differ with each other as true Christians, we do it not because we love the smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight, but because we must for God’s sake. If there are tears when we must speak, then something beautiful can be observed.”
As Ray Ortlund said (in response to the above quote) on The Gospel Coalition blog…
Whatever the current controversy may be — whoever, whatever — are there tears? Do we express our differences with such care that a reasonable unbeliever could say, “There is no blood-lust here. This is different. There is sincerity of heart here, even nobility”?
As the Apostle Paul wrote in that famous love chapter (1 Cor. 13)…
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [which includes forgiveness], I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love [which includes forgiveness], I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love [which includes forgiveness], I gain nothing…. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (vv. 1-3, 13)
Below are a few Scripture passages that talk about how we are to treat one another (specifically as brothers and sisters in Christ). Enjoy!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-47)
“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) (i.e. a paraphrased version of this would be: treat others the way you want to be treated. If you don’t like being treated in a particular way, then don’t treat others that way).
“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)
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23 ESV)
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Romans 12:10)
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14)
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (Romans 12:16)
“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.” (Romans 12:17)
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:18-21)
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10)
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1-4)
“So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19)
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (Romans 15:1-2)
“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NLT)