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The Mature Church: Part 4

There is one quality we know for certain must be present in a mature church – Love. No Christian fellowship can claim any level of spiritual maturity without love.

In Colossians 3, Paul says to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”  Above all this, he says, put on love, which he calls “the perfect bond of unity (v. 14).  The original Greek actually says love is “the bond of completeness.”  Love completes and unites all the Christian virtues.

Paul tells us that all spiritual power and ministry is merely noise without love, and amounts to nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3).  Do we want a church filled with empty ministry?  No?  Then pursue love.  Love is not easy.  Smiles are easy. Politeness is fairly easy.  Love is not easy.  Love is hard work, and it is to be done “without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9).  A “nice” face can hide a heart loaded with hypocrisy.  Smiles can be stretched over dark motives and disguise cruel whispers designed to destroy and tear down.

Love is hard because we must overcome our own sinful tendencies to exercise it.  Since love seeks the good of others, and desires what is best for them,  that often means I must crucify my selfish desires to do this --- my prejudices, my preferences, my frail ego, and my pride.  “Love covers a multitude of sins,” says Peter (1 Pet 4:8 ).  And it will be necessary, time and again, to cover them, because ministry is about people.  Covering sin doesn’t mean ignoring it, but dealing with sins graciously, gently, and with edification in mind.  It means forgiveness and a discreet capacity to drop sins that are dealt with from future conversations and certainly from bitter reflection.

Paul’s one word description of love helps us understand all this: “Love edifies” (1 Cor 8:1).  Love builds up.  Everything that pulls down or fails to seek spiritual growth is not love.  A healthy church is a place where most of the brethren actively seek and work for the building up of others in Christ.  All others.  Yes, even those odd others, weak others, and back-sliding others.  Love asks, How can I build this person up and help them toward maturity?  When most of a church’s members are asking themselves this question regularly, maturity is just around the corner.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Wayne Wilson

Originally printed in the Acton Faith Bible Church Pony Express. Vol. I, No. 05, August 2008.