The church is described in Ephesians 4:11-16 as comprising individuals who have spiritual gifts. The members are appointed by Christ to specific service in keeping with the gifts they’ve been given. The body is a living organism, united forever with Christ. It is composed of people of all sexes, races, nations, cultures and social classes (Ephesians 1:23; 2:15-16; 3:6; 4:12-16; 5:30). There is no division or distinction in the body of Christ between Jew, Gentile, slave or free, male or female. All are one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).

In Matthew 22 a lawyer asked Jesus what the greatest commandment in the Law might be. In verses 37-39, Matthew records our Lord’s answer, which was to love God and to love people. He made a similar point in John’s Gospel, when he told them that his “new” commandment for them was to “love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Yet, in the Church, how often do we see a different reality: members sniping at one another, murmuring, gossiping, critical of the Church, the preaching, the pastor, the music, the food, each other, concerned that music and preaching be done to fit preconceived notions of propriety, worried more about turf and power, prestige and the respect of others, than about helping the brothers and sisters? Worse, how much of Church becomes jockeying for power, forgetting entirely that in the church, no one is in charge and everyone is a servant (Matthew 20:20-24).

As Americans we are taught to stand up for our rights, and to allow no one to push us around. But scripturally, we are to be un-American. We must stand up only for others, never for ourselves. Instead, the message of the Sermon on the Mount is important as Christians consider their role (see Matthew 5:38-48).

As Christians we are called to do the impossible: to love the unlovely, to love those who hate us, to love those from whom there is no hope of ever receiving anything back. True Christian love means that often time our love will go unrequited.

Our righteousness, our love as Christians is for the sake of others, not us, and should never, ever be dependent on what someone else does. “Well if he would just apologize.” Or, “If they don’t change the music, or change the pastor, or change [your gripe here] then I just won’t tithe any more”. Or, “Since I can’t have my way, I’m leaving.” Oh, but “This is a matter of principle!”

Why am I in church? Why do I serve God? For myself? Because it makes me feel good? Because I hope God will look with favor on me? Satan tempts us with good things, like the fruit that the serpent dangled in front of Eve that she couldn’t help noticing was “good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom.” (Genesis 3:6)

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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