Loving others in the church (3)

1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

A key way of loving others, and promoting unity in our churches, is to encourage people. When we criticise others, we can make them feel inferior or cause resentment to develop. That doesn’t mean we should let ungodly behaviour go unnoticed; there’s a place for discipline and constructive criticism, but it should be done with love and sensitivity. We should be aiming to be positive with our words, to tell people when they’ve done something right and to speak positivity into people’s situations. The Bible says, ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.’ Encouragement can go beyond words. We should be encouraging people to try something new, step out of their comfort zones and bring new ideas. Sometimes we can be wary of change, afraid that it will mess up our traditions and our routines. But when we invite people to start to use their gifts, they can bring freshness and creativity. We should be encouraging people to get involved and use what God has given them to develop the church. Forgiveness is another important part of having a loving and united church. When someone hasn’t been encouraging towards us, we have a choice. We can either let bitterness take root, or we can forgive them. If we don’t choose to forgive, bitterness and resentment can start to affect how we respond to that person, and to others. And if we choose to talk to others about what that person did to us, it can cause resentment and tension to spread around the church. The Bible says, ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). Let’s choose to live by that verse, and love others with encouragement and forgiveness.

1 Kings 6-7; Mark 8:1-13; Ps 97; Prov 12:1-3

Let go

Proverbs 10:12 NIV

When we hold on to resentment it feels like there’s a war going on inside of us. We end up in a battle with ourselves, as well as others. Bitterness takes us over and we’re left hurt and angry. We’re constantly trying to figure out who’s right and who’s wrong. We can end up spending so much time trying to out-do, out-shout, and out-manoeuvre others that we lose our peace and joy. Sound familiar? Resentment can take root in us all. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can end our conflicts with others and let go of resentment. That seems easier said than done. When bitterness has taken hold of us, it can be very challenging to let things go. But we can’t allow someone else’s actions to determine our reactions. We can’t control what other people do, but we can control how we respond to it. When we hold on to bitterness and resentment, we not only keep conflicts going, but we also deny ourselves the opportunity to heal. We’re the ones who remain unhappy and hurt, when God has designed it that we should hand it all over to Him and exercise forgiveness instead. The Bible says that ‘hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.’ We need to let the love and peace of God fill our minds so much that it overflows to others – including those who have upset us. Do we really want to be like the person who hurt us? What would Jesus do? He’d turn the other cheek (see Matthew 5:39). We need to ask God to help us release our anger, turn the other cheek, and forgive the people who have hurt us.

Exo 1-3; Luke 11:29-44; Ps 40:9-17; Prov 6:6-8

End the conflict now!

Proverbs 10:12 NKJV

When you hold on to resentment it feels like there’s a war going on inside you. You’re in a battle with yourself, as well as others. And the more you fight, the more ground you lose. Arguing just drains you of energy and leaves you more hurt and angry. You’re in a no-win situation. You struggle with who’s right and who’s wrong. You spend so much time trying to out-do, out-shout, and out-maneuver others that you lose your peace and joy. End the conflict now! Refuse to live this way another day. Don’t allow someone’s actions to determine your reactions. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8 NIV). Don’t become Satan’s next meal. Let the love and peace of God fill your mind so much that it overflows to others – including those who have upset you. Stop and think: Do you really want to be like the person who hurt you? What would Jesus do? You know! He’d turn the other cheek (See Matthew 5:39). “But,” you ask, “what about the wrong done to me?” What about it? It’s not for you to impose judgment. There’s only one qualified judge; let Him handle it (See James 4:12). Ask God to help you to release your anger, turn the other cheek, and forgive the one who has done you wrong. Pray this simple prayer: “Lord, I’m angry. Help me to let it go. I choose to be merciful. Thank You for giving me the grace to forgive the person who hurt me and to follow You. In Jesus’ name: Amen.”

Soul food: Exo 1-3; Luke 11:29-44; Ps 40:9-17; Prov 6:6-8

“Leave me alone!”

Mark 5:17 NLT

The Bible says when “those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs…the crowd began pleading with Jesus to…leave them alone” (vv. 16-17 NLT). They had just witnessed an astounding miracle, yet here they were “pleading with Jesus to leave them alone.” Maybe they were afraid He’d interfere with their livelihood, like He did with the owner of the pigs. Or they thought He was so powerful and unpredictable they didn’t want Him messing with their lives. Either way, they wanted no part of what Jesus had to offer. “Leave me alone, God!” Maybe you haven’t used those exact words, but are there areas in your life you’d just as soon He didn’t get involved in? Pastor Mark Roberts says: “If we put into words our secret thoughts, mightn’t they sound something like this: ‘You can have me when it comes to my family life, but leave me alone at work.’ Or, ‘You’re welcome to touch my public actions, but don’t mess with my daydreams.’ Or, ‘I’m willing to give You a tithe of my income, but leave the rest of my money alone.’ Or, ‘I’m happy to have You in my life, Jesus, but don’t ask me to forgive my parents.’ Or, ‘I want You to be my Lord…but I want to hang on to certain areas of behavior…to keep on sinning in certain ways and resist You when it comes to certain relationships.” God wants all, not just a part of you. He wants to be Lord of every aspect of your life – including those areas where you’d like to be left to your own devices.

Soul food: Rom 3:21-6:23; Luke 5:1-11; Ps 91; Prov 3:3-4

When someone irritates you

Ephesians 4:31 MSG

Some of us excel in our careers, but act like a bull in a china shop when it comes to our relationships. Then we rationalize it by saying, “I didn’t mean any harm,” or “That’s just my way.” Sorry, God doesn’t let us off the hook that easily. When someone irritates you, God requires you to do two things: (1) Be the first to reach out. You may be right, but if you’re resentful, what good is it? Instead of nursing a grudge or waiting for the other person to apologize, be first to reach out. Someone else’s response neither validates nor invalidates your decision to forgive. Think about it: If you had only a year to live, would you give such things another second of your time? No! The Bible says, “Forgiving…as God…has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NLT). God made the first move in forgiving us so we’d know how to do it for others. (2) Be understanding. When some of us argue our point, we bulldoze everybody and everything in our way. Purpose-driven, time-conscious, goal-oriented people can be guilty of this. The Bible says, “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God…forgave you.” Chances are the people who get under your skin aren’t trying to complicate your life; they’re struggling to cope with their own. Once you understand there’s no ill will intended, you begin to feel compassion for them. That’s how it is with God. “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle” (Isaiah 42:3 NLT). Today, ask Him to help you show His love toward those who irritate you.

Soul food: Isa 49-52; Luke 3:11-20; Ps 81; Prov 2:11-15