Roughly fifteen years ago, Derek Webb wrote an exceptionally convicting song for the Gen X-ers and early hipsters: “If you love Me you will love the Church.” Our cultural independence and belief in personal autonomy to define absolute truth has left many unwilling to discuss their faith. Faith is a private matter, and no one can tell me how to believe or act, after all. And for the past few generations we have watched children who were raised in the Church leave at an alarming rate. Perhaps in response to to this phenomenon, we are now seeing a new wave of Church interest in the form of “Church Planting”. Our mindset is now, “There are no churches out there that are exactly what I want, so I am going to start my own, with my four best friends”. Instead of plugging in, seeing Churches revived, and loving one another, we spiritualize our selfishness by launching out to “reach the lost” and “start a new church”.
But Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost: His Church. He loves His Church. He calls us His bride. He gave up His life for us. And if Jesus loves us, then we must love one another. It is, after all, the second greatest commandment:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”
– Matt 22.39
After Jesus had died and resurrected, He had a pointed conversation with Peter. Peter, the apostle, was a bold and outspoken man. He was the one who got out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus. He was the one who cut off the ear of one of the men who was seizing Jesus. But he was also the one who denied Jesus three times during Jesus’ mockery of a trial. Jesus, in affirming Peter’s forgiveness for denying Him, asked Peter three times if he loved Him. But in response to Peter’s affirmation of love, Jesus gave three interesting responses and commands:
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.
– John 21.15-17
Much has been studied and taught on the various terms of loved used, the meaning of the three questions and other aspects of this interaction, but I simply want to point out that every time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Jesus’ response was a form of instruction about caring for the Church. In essence, Jesus was saying, “If you love me, then love and take care of my Church”.
We also see throughout the New Testament that God created us to each be apart of the body which is the Church. He gave us each abilities, talents, blessings and abilities to serve one another, and He also gives us one another to hold us accountable and press into us when we would stray from the Truth and into sin.
“For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”
– 1 Cor 12.12
It is a very sick body in which the hand hates the foot. It is a body incapable of function in which the eye will not tell the mouth what is perceives. We must work together, and we must function in our roles to accomplish what God has for us!
In order to love the Church, we must remember that we are all on the path of sanctification. None of us is perfect, none of us has reached full potential of maturity. All of us are in a battle against sin by the power of the Holy Spirit within us. Therefore, we must understand, we must offer grace as we have been given grace, we must prefer one another above ourselves, and we must love.
If you are a Christian, and if you love Jesus, this is not an option. You must love and serve the Church. God has created you as part of the Church and He loves the Church. We must love what Jesus loves, we must serve what Jesus serves. Follow His example today, and pour into that local body where God has placed you!