Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ten (I added one) Lessons on Loving People in Your Church

It is a grand privilege to love people and together learn to become more and more like Jesus. Loving people isn't always easy. In fact, loving people can be one of the most dangerous things to do - we get hurt so often when we love well. But loving people is what Jesus commands us to do and we are to be teaching each other to obey everything Jesus commanded us (Matt. 28:20).
Below you'll find Nine Lessons that I've been learning from the Apostle Paul on what loving people looks like. I hope they are helpful to as well in your continual discipling of people in your life.
1. Give thanks to God for the people with whom you are called to live out your faith (your church). In 1 Thess. 1:2, Paul says he always gave thanks for these believers. Pray to God with thanksgiving for individuals and groups of people will allow you to see them in positive ways and be endeared to their souls.
2. Remember the good things about the people God puts around you. It is easy to remember the bad things people do! 1 Thess. 1:3 teaches us that Paul focused on their work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. We too often default to remembering the less than stellar things about people instead of the good things.
3. Verbally recognize the good that people do. 1 Thess. 1:5-10 sets the example of bragging about the good that people do in a public forum (that could be a group of 2 or 20,000 or more). Paul brags at how well the Thessalonian church was at sharing Jesus everywhere they went.
4. Love people as a nursing mother tends to her own children (1 Thess. 2:7). Recently I visited a new born and her mother in the hospital. The tenderness of the mom as she loved the child and brought the child to her breast to nurse her was amazing. This tender love should be a hallmark in our relationship to one another.
5. Sacrificial love is certainly needed as we engage each other to live more and more like Jesus calls us to live. 1 Thess. 3:8 tells us that Paul was so fond of the believers in Thessalonia, that He imparted not only the Gospel of Jesus, but also his own life because he had fallen in love with these folks. How can you and I give our own lives to those whom God has called us to come alongside and do church?
6. Be willing to exhaust yourself for the benefit of others (1 Thess. 2:9-10). Here we learn that Paul labored, endured hardship, worked night and day, proclaimed the gospel, and behaved devoutly, uprightly and blamelessly towards all of the believers.
7. Father people in the faith (1 Thess. 2:11-12). Paul exhorted, encouraged and implored each person just as a father would his own children. For that to happen, one must take seriously the role of disciple making. 1 Thess 2:12 says that one of the goals of loving people is so that they would live out their faith in a way that is worthy of the love of God for us.
8. Loving people includes checking up on them to see if they are doing alright (1 Thess. 3:1-10). Paul sent Timothy to find out an update on these believers in Thessalonica while he was away from them. Paul knew that hard times would come in their lives (1 Thess. 3:5) and he wanted to see if they remained focused on Jesus.
9. Encourages them to keep moving forward in their faith (1 Thess. 4:1-12). Paul instructs these people who are dear to him to not become complacent but to continue to strive and 'excel still more' in their love and obedience to Jesus (1 Thess. 4:1 & 10).
(Additional Lesson)
10. Affirm leaders for their hard work (1 Thess. 5:12-13) and guide people to stay strong in their living for Jesus (1 Thess. 5:14-15). Both require your observing their actions and engaging them where they are. This is not easy, but it is loving, helpful and will draw the body to become healthful.
What would happen if every believer actually followed Paul's example of loving each other like this in your church?