A primary directive of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 is teaching disciples of Jesus “… to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).
Jesus’ most frequent command for his followers is to be men and women who love greatly.
- We are to love God with all our capacity (Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30).
- We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31).
- We are to love our enemies and bless them (Matt. 5:43-44; Luke 6:27-28).
- We are to love one another just as Jesus has loved us (John 13:34).
This practice of expressing extraordinary love toward God, toward our adversaries, toward those in our sphere of influence, and toward brothers and sisters in Christ is to be so characteristic of God’s people that Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
Question – Does the Church in your community have a reputation for remarkable love? Are God’s people characteristically thought of as being pace-setters for kindness, compassion, and reconciliation? Do you know the testimony of anyone who has come to faith in Jesus because of the extraordinary love they witnessed between local churches and amongst God’s people? Do the churches in your city honor one another and partner together for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom?
Tragically, the widespread perception outside the Church and, for many, the experience inside the Church is that God’s people are petty, selfish, and unkind. In many communities there are lines of division between church families that are in direct disobedience to Jesus, the Head of the Church. The message of the New Testament is that there are two kinds of people on the earth: those who are spiritually alive by the grace of God and those who are spiritually dead, who are to be the focus of compassionate united gospel endeavors in the hope that they might be saved. We have ignored the vital role of the unity of the Body of Christ in accomplishing the great commission and in doing so we have placed our own personal preferences above the salvation of lost souls. Rather than strengthening the visible unity of Christ-followers as an expression of obedient love, many ministry leaders have given themselves permission to only align themselves with those in the Body of Christ with whom they feel comfortable. Rather than being willing to die for all the brothers, many have drawn a circle, determining who is “in” and who is “out” based on another’s view of spiritual gifts, worship style, and other non-essential criteria.
The Church in the western world needs to repent of its disobedience to Jesus, the Head of the Church, when it comes to the unity of the broader Body of Christ. The apostle John writes, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). The measure of our love for the Church of our city is a willingness to give our lives for the brothers and sisters who attend another church across town and express their love for Jesus differently than we do? Certainly, if we are willing to die for brothers and sisters in Christ, we can partner with them for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.
Father, we humbly confess our failure to love others beyond our own comfort zone. We have ignored the vital role of the unity of the Body of Christ in accomplishing the great commission and in doing so we have placed our own petty preferences above the salvation of lost souls. God forgive us. As an expression of your grace and mercy we ask that you would awaken your Church to its true identity of being one new man, one body, one temple, one bride, and one united expression of the presence of Jesus on earth. May the collective Body of Christ in our community, repent of its isolation and independence and embrace the high calling and privilege of representing you as one united Church of the city. May those in our city begin being aware of a dynamic change in the way congregations are genuinely loving and caring for one another. May pastoral leaders abandon any motivations of pride and ego and, instead, find significance in becoming champions of the visible unity of the Body of Christ in their city. May Jesus be lifted up and a wave of new believers be drawn to him through the love and unity of your people. May it be increasingly so in cities across America and around the world.
We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen