What's your attitude toward the church?
In my expereince, many seem to have a sour taste in their mouths about Christians. Even people who claim to BE Christians! Some who go to church meetings have no problem speaking evil of other people in the same church. Gossiping, lying, or even worse: disconnection. Allowing our own temporary, physical family (a mere picture of God's eternal, spiritual family) to come before God's family (the church). Wow! Putting the physical picture before the spiritual reality it represents is called idolatry. We could do this with our marriage (a picture of Christ and the church), legalism (looking to the shadows of the law rather than the substance of Christ), or any number of things.
But we're talking about the church: the people of God. The saints.
How do you view other Christians?
How would the word of God have us view the people of God? There are some Scriptures that blow my mind:
"As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight." Psalm 16:3, ESV
Whoah!! "THEY" are the excellent ones? All my delight is in "the saints?" What a view of God's people! What a love, and excitement about being with them, is here communicated by David (the man after God's own heart). That's why he could also say, "I was glad when they said to me, 'Let us go to the house of the LORD!'" (Psalm 122:1) Truly David delights in the LORD God, and is excited about meeting with God himself in his house. But nevertheless David communicates glorious delight in the saints of God. A lesson is hinted at here: If we love God, we will love his people.
This lesson is shouted out in black and white for all to see in the New Testament. John the Apostle declares:
"We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers..." 1 John 3:14, ESV
This goes farther than just marveling at David's admirable attitude toward the saints. This truth drives home to our own hearts a test of whether we are truly in the faith! John's first epistle is filled with tests to show if we are truly God's people. Here is one of them. Let the fullness of this statement sink in: We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.
This verse teaches us that we can know if we are converted to Christ. Assurance is available. This test is one way to know: We must LOVE. But the verse is specific. Love whom? "The brothers." This is not talking about loving the lost, or our enemies, or the poor, etc. We are surely to love them, also. But even unsaved sinners show some sort of social, humanitarian love. John is not saying that social, humanitarian love proves we are Christians. He is saying love for "the brothers" is a proof we are truly God's people. Loving Christians is a sign we are Christians!
This is also not a love we can produce in our own hearts; it does not have its origin in man. This is a supernatural miracle of God, who has sovereignly moved upon us, removing our heart of stone and giving us a new heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), causing us to love what he loves.
John is not making this up, either. He got it from a reliable source: Jesus Christ! Jesus said to his disciples, "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, ESV). Jesus is saying that love for Christians is a distinguishing mark of a Christian.
So again I ask, what is our attitude toward Christians? How do you feel about the people in your local church? I mean, how do you REALLY feel, deep in your heart, when you don't have to give a public Sunday-school answer? Do you get excited thinking about meeting with them, like David did? Are they the excellent ones who fill you with delight, or the losers who get on your last nerve? When you see them in the store do you try to hide? I praise God that Jesus didn't avoid us! I praise God that Jesus loved "the church" and "gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25)!
Lord, put your love for the church in the church.