Love and appreciation
Have there been days that you have just wished that the year 2020 would be over? We have experienced COVID, fires, storms, explosions, wars, and elections — and it almost makes you afraid to ask, “What else could happen?” But just in case we think that we are alone in a strange land, we can turn to the church of the first century.
The Apostle Peter sent his first letter to the church of the diaspora. These were the Christians who were now refugees, living in what is modern-day Turkey. They were declaring “Jesus is Lord” in a world that would not tolerate that kind of insubordination to Caesar. The Christians no longer took part in the wild living of the world and so they were called names, punished, and even put to death for their faith. Yes — these were believers living in a strange land, just as we are today.
Of utmost concern to Peter was that the Church would be unified. He wrote:
“Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing,” 1 Peter 3:8.
The concern is that the Church, through their behavior, become a living witness to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Peter wraps up his thoughts by mentioning five actions that can be arranged in this way, with love sandwiched right in the middle:
Unity of spirit — this is about having the same mind. It’s about how you think.
Sympathy — this is how you feel.
Love for one another — this is Philadelphoi, and it is the very center of what he is talking about.
Tender heart — again, this is about how you feel.
A humble mind — this is again about having the mindset of Christ — it’s how you think.
Mindset and feelings surround the central theme of love for one another. Being entirely filled with the mind of Christ changes everything within the community of believers. No matter what social strata they may come from, nor the different opinions they may have, they work together and seek harmony so that they can reflect unity to the world.
Love one another. It is this love that should define the Christian community. This is the month of October and the time that we celebrate pastor appreciation. I think that holy love ought to be seen in the ways in which we love and appreciate our pastors.
This year has probably been the most challenging year in ministry that our pastors have ever faced. In a brief period of time, everything about how we “do” church changed. Our pastors had to learn how to minister without getting to see their congregations face to face. Week after week, they have had to preach into a camera lens, wondering whether God was using them to touch the lives of their people. Even as we have gathered again in worship, your pastors have looked out into a sea of masks and eyes. Our pastors wonder, “are the people smiling?” “are they tracking my message?” And then, for those who have been able to open their buildings, there are only 30-40% of their congregations in attendance, leaving pastors wondering whether people will ever come back. Many pastors are tired, worn out, and not sure what to do next.
Love one another. This is a good message for us this month as we reach out and love and appreciate our pastors. Church, I’m going to ask you to love on your pastors. Call them up and tell them how much you appreciate them. Shower them with cards. Give them a love offering. They are doing their best to get through 2020!
Pastors — and every member of the clergy — you are loved and appreciated. Thank you for what you are doing for God’s kingdom in the year 2020!
Back to Peter a moment. Over and over again, we read that the community was to be united. This wasn’t about conformity of opinion but it was about unity in Christ. When Peter challenges the Church to have unity of the Spirit and a humble mind, we recognize that this is all about being “in Christ.” This is the very core of our holiness message for, to be entirely sanctified, we are to be entirely “in Christ.” When this happens, our behaviors change. We don’t all suddenly conform to becoming alike, but we are united because we are all in Him. The beauty, then, is unity in diversity.
The question is whether the Church is able to show unity in her diversity these days. This unity is supposed to cross all human barriers, as demonstrated by Peter’s earlier comments. The Church of the first century was united in Christ while made up of people from every level of society. They were a group of refugees, slaves, servants, women and male leaders. What a divergent group of people, most of whom had never been empowered with moral responsibility. However, in Christ they are made whole, placed on equal footing, and expected to be united and show love for one another. Can you imagine how counter-cultural that would have been?
If it was that counter-cultural then, it is still counter-cultural today. It is in the Church that we learn to love one another, even when we have entirely different perspectives on life. This reality becomes shocking to the world — a Church filled with unity and holy love. Our world is becoming increasingly divided, and there is a great need for the church to reflect this same spirit and attitude for which Peter prayed in the first century. Peter believed that the witness of the power and presence of Christ would be magnified if the church would practice Philadelphoi — love for one another.
Let’s practice that love, and maybe, this month, we could begin that practice by loving our pastors.
Grace and peace,
Board of General Superintendents
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