The love of Christ that Christians should have is well described in Colossians 3:12-17. “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved” Therefore connects the previous verses: you have put on the new man and put off the old man, you were raised with Christ, and you are setting your mind on things above. You are the chosen of God (elect) according to your response to His calling through the word of the gospel, 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. You are holy (sanctified) as God is holy, 1 Peter 1:15-16, and loved by the Father.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” The peace of God is to “umpire” our hearts and direct our lives. When we have peace with God, it is easier to have peace with our brethren, especially those who require more longsuffering. We are unified in one body when we all are ruled by the peace of God and seek the things which make for peace, Romans 14:19.
An example of seeking peace is in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. I should not take my brother who has wronged me to court, but rather accept the wrong rather than disgrace the name of the Savior and the church before the world. Sometimes we have to “accept the wrong” to make for peace. It is not wrong to confront a brother for an expense resulting from his negligence, but if he will not hear you, or the church, it is better to accept the wrong and let the great Judge, our God, administer justice.
God commands us to love our brethren. Loving my brother is not an option, nor is it a command that I can follow selectively. Although we realize that some brethren’s personalities clash with ours, or they have habits or idiosyncrasies that bother us, we must work harder to overcome these minor things to be brethren.
Some have the attitude, “I have to love him but that doesn’t mean that I have to like him.” Perhaps they wish to reconcile the command to love our brethren and the reality that some brethren can be obnoxious, overbearing, insensitive, and annoying. How can we truly have love for our brethren if we do not make significant attempts to overcome the natural reaction to avoid these people? Will we show true hospitality, help, love, and concern for someone we love but whom we make conscious efforts to avoid? A better approach is to look past character traits to the soul within. Perhaps the gentle rebuke made in sincere love could chisel away some undesirable characteristics to make the brother lovable to others. Certainly, there are people who grate on our nerves but we probably grate on the nerves of others as well.
Paul addresses the need to make a special effort to love the unlovable in Colossians 3:13: “bear with one another.” The word “bear” here is used elsewhere of God suffering or bearing with us (Matthew 17:17, Mark 9:19). In 2 Corinthians 11:1,19, the same word is used in a sense that we might translate as put up with. There is a great need for us to suffer with, forbear, put up with, and bear with one another. We come from different backgrounds, geographical areas, financial situations, educational levels, etc. We are a dissimilar people unified into one body under one head. It is essential that we bear with one another and not willfully withhold our full love for some brethren because we do not “like” them. “What do you do more than others? Even the tax collectors love those who love them,” Matthew 5:46 (paraphrased)
The Christian’s language must be godly and reflect a heart consecrated for God. Paul commanded the Ephesians to let no corrupt communication proceed from their mouths but rather words of edification and grace, Ephesians 4:29. He wrote the Colossians to walk wisely around worldly people and to speak gracefully and thoughtfully, Colossians 4:6. He told Titus to encourage the young men to have sound speech that could not be condemned, Titus 2:8.
Our words must encourage and edify all men, especially our brethren. Our speech must be graceful, or beautiful. We must speak words of kindness. When we must speak tough words, such as words of rebuke, we must still speak with grace and love, Ephesians 4:15.
Our words can comfort the downhearted, 1 Thessalonians 5:14. Too many brethren suffer without a word of exhortation from loving brethren. We pray for these individuals but we should also call or send a card to show our concern. Since we have been comforted by God, we should comfort others, 2 Corinthians 1:4.
Christians must always be ready always to give a defense of our faith, with a meek and fearful spirit, 1 Peter 3:15. Proverbs 15:28: “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” Christians must study the word to prepare a scriptural defense of his belief. A foolish person, on the other hand, will answer “my church believes…,” or “my preacher says…,” or “I think…” We cannot answer the world in its folly. We must know why we believe what we believe and be able to defend it with scripture. When we do this, we will take our tongue, that unruly evil, and use it for good.
There is an excellent set of articles on the challenges pornography presents to Christians striving to live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present age.” The articles provide a broader definition of pornography that more appropriately describes the lustful images, stories, music and words that surround us. The site is at http://www.cvillechurch.com/TheChristiansBattaleAgainstPorn.htm
Spend time investigating the rest of the site for great articles on a variety of subjects. I would also recommend signing up for their newsletter. It always features a variety of interesting articles.
The most profound advice for romantic relationships is found several times in the Song of Solomon. The phrase “do not awaken love until it pleases” is used within the Song as an encouragement to others and a reminder to be patient in one’s own relationship. What does this phrase mean?
Love can be compared to a lovely flower that blooms beautiful in its proper season. No amount of sunlight, water, or nutrients can force the flower to bloom before its time. Attempts to physically force the flower from the bud will only damage or destroy it. However, if you provide the nutrients and proper environment the flower will bloom beautifully on its own and often at an unexpected, unobserved time.
Consider some common mistakes in failing to “awaken love until it pleases:”
- Trying to force a romantic relationship. I have known frustrated people who liked someone then relentlessly pursued them trying to make them fall in love. They usually repelled the person instead. Usually the other person feels like prey in a predator’s shadow instead of flattered by the attention. A manipulative person might take advantage of the pursuer, acting interested to get what they want from the desparate person, then dropping them when they are finished playing.
- Changing oneself to please another. When you try to change who you are to appeal to someone you are infatuated with, you are trying to force the flower open. Ultimately the relationship is destined to dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and failure because you will tire of playing the part and long to be yourself again. When you revert to yourself the other person will feel deceived and hurt that you could not be honest with them. They will probably be uninterested since they fell in love with a character you were playing–not you.
- Settling for someone. Sometimes people will decide to “fall in love” or marry someone because they either dated for a long time or because they are older and “there aren’t many available men/women.” There is no predetermined time or natural law that states when people will fall in love. How sad it would be to just marry someone because of habit or fear then meet someone that would be the ideal spouse. If you have dated someone for years and you are often fighting or have no deep love for the person, spare yourselves future heartache and damage and break off the relationship so you can be ready to meet someone with whom love can bloom.
- Rushing physical expressions of love. True love develops through friendship, not the passionate scenes of Hollywood productions. Couples should not feel pressure to hold hands, kiss, or show other physical signs of affection. In fact, it is healthy to hold off on any physical expressions while you let the relationship develop. When the physical expressions of love are introduced sometimes they become the focus to the neglect of the non-physical and the pressure to escalate the physical aspects of the relationship intensifies.
- Sex before marriage. Some feel that if they give in dating what should only be given in marriage, that they will win the heart of their love interest. Statistically, it has the opposite effect. As with the one trying to force a relationship, a user will play on this tendency and get what they want until they are bored or an opportunity with someone else arises. God gave the sexual relationship for marriage to bind the couple closer together but the secret to its power is the ’til-death-do-you-part commitment between the husband and wife. Keeping this relationship for marriage alone will allow it to blossom and grow: a special flower for the husband and wife alone.
True love is more beautiful than any flower but it must be allowed to grow and bloom in its own time. “Do not awaken love until it pleases.” Be patient and enjoy the friendship until the love blooms then take care of it like a precious tender plant.