Fourth grade was a nightmare for me. I was isolated and ostracized. I was excluded and ignored. I didn’t have one friend that I felt safe with. I avoided situations and certain hallways. I checked my self over and over. I was self-conscious about ever move I made. I came home and as the door closed behind me, the tears unleashed.
That was 4th grade.
What do we do when it isn’t elementary school but it is church?
Several years ago an older sister said to me, “I have never had a soft place to fall here.” Those words revisit me and trouble me over and over. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what church is supposed to be?
Too often in the body of Christ, groups form. Our prejudices build walls. And those on the other side of the wall feel less like family and more like outsiders. They feel like they can’t be real. They can’t be themselves. They can’t be flawed and be accepted. They simply don’t feel like they have a soft place to fall.
No matter what name you put on a church, a church like that isn’t a church that belongs to Christ.
A church of Christ must be known for its supernatural love.
Christ said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
I may speak in different languages, whether human or even of angels. But if I don’t have love, I am only a noisy bell or a ringing cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy, I may understand all secrets and know everything there is to know, and I may have faith so great that I can move mountains. But even with all this, if I don’t have love, I am nothing. I may give away everything I have to help others, and I may even give my body as an offering to be burned. But I gain nothing by doing all this if I don’t have love…
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (from 1 Cor. 13)
The love that motivates and emanates from Jesus’ church is greater than spiritual gifts. It is greater than faith. It is greater than hope.
A church of Christ should never play favorites.
But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law. Jam. 2:9
In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 1 Cor 12:22
Whether it’s the preacher, wealthy members or someone popular, we can’t play favorites, excluding others from their place of honor in Christ’s family.
A church of Christ does not turn a blind eye to sin.
If people are causing divisions among you, give a first and second warning. After that, have nothing more to do with them. For people like that have turned away from the truth, and their own sins condemn them. Titus 3:10-11
Sometimes we let things slide because we don’t want to hurt someone’s feeling, offend them or chase them off. But if someone in the church is dividing it with loveless actions, they must be stopped.
A church of Christ savors their forgiveness and offers it to others.
Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor.6:9-11
You can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins. Jam. 5:20
Do you wake up each day to drink in salvation? Do you suck the marrow out of mercy each morning? You have been cleansed and made holy when you deserved death. When you truly absorb the depth of that truth, you will passionately pursue sinners, create unity and offer comfort to fellow sojourners.
A church of Christ chooses Christians over the world.
Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? 2 Cor 6:14
Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 1 John 2:15
Sometimes I think the church doesn’t love each other enough because we don’t hate the world enough. If we truly felt like outcasts in the world like we ought to, we’d be running to refuge in the body of Christ.
A church of Christ values spiritual fellowship above all else.
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Cor: 13:14
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47
Jesus’ blood is thicker than water. There should be nothing that creates a tighter bond than sharing in the eternal grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Nothing should create more comradery than sharing the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost. Nothing in this life should speak Jesus louder to the lost and dying world than the inseparable fellowship of Christ’s church.
If your church isn’t that, it isn’t a church of Christ.