Love for others is an important characteristic of followers of Jesus and necessary for Kingdom advancement. The Church is called to love.
“Go low in foot-washing-like service to one another. Lay down your lives, your privileges, for one another. Love your brothers and sisters across all racial and ethnic lines. Love the weakest and oldest and youngest. Love the disabled. Love the lonely trouble maker. How blessed the church that loves like this!” –John Piper
Our home is a stone’s throw from the wall separating Jerusalem from the West Bank. We regularly see young men climbing over the 20-foot razor wire-laden wall with a ladder on the West Bank side and a rope on the Jerusalem side. Sometimes, patrolling Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers pick them up. The environment is often tense, yet even in this setting we are blessed with friendly neighbors and shopkeepers. They keep an eye out for our family—a great hospitality-driven joy of Middle East culture.
We had a large group of American visitors who came to work with us, which required we rent a couple vans for their transportation needs. The street in front of many of the neighborhood shops was under construction, limiting the amount of parking. I went to pick up shwarma sandwiches for lunch, and the lack of parking spaces added stress to an already stressful day. There were no available spaces in front of the restaurant, so I parked near a grocery store we often visit. A man standing in front of the grocery store gruffly told me I could not park there. I informed him my errand would only take a few minutes, but he continued to argue. So I went inside the store to talk with Mustafa, the owner. The worker continued arguing in Arabic, not knowing I understood what he said. He inferred I was an idiot for parking in front of the store. I became frustrated and said, “Forget you,” with a matching waving hand gesture, a sign that signaled he was unimportant and not worth my time. When I exited the store, I noticed a space opened near the restaurant so I moved the van.
As I paid for the shwarmas, the Holy Spirit began to convict me about my actions and treatment of the grocery store clerk. I had to be obedient to what the Holy Spirit was telling me; I needed to apologize and ask for forgiveness. I walked to the grocery store and before I could apologize, the owner offered his apology. He explained that the employee did not know I was from the neighborhood. I expressed my regret to the worker and extended my apology to him for my handling of the situation.
Many years ago Shellie and I were wisely instructed to continually pray for the people God wanted us to serve. The reason? It is really hard to pray for someone without God changing my heart towards that person. Praying for those we live and work with helps sustain the love that brought us to Jerusalem and allows the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts to daily grow and restore that love. If we lose the love for people with whom we work, it is almost impossible to represent the One who first loved them, created and formed them, and died for them.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
“‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’”
Are you overly critical of others? Have you made yourself busy “doing” things for God? Have you forgotten to abide in Him?
The Church exists as a respondent of Jesus’ love and should not revert to simply right beliefs, structured duties and meaningless habits.
Be intentional about abiding in Jesus. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit” (John 15:5 NLT).
Meditate on God’s Word, spend time in prayer, and encourage fellow believers. When abiding in Jesus, the Holy Spirit fruit will become evident.
The Holy Spirit produces meaningful qualities in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
Abide in Jesus. Ask Him to ripen the fruit of the Spirit in your life. Display God’s love to the world so that others will turn to Him.
Small Group Discussion Starters
- Follow-up from previous discussion: Did you try to live in better community this past week with fellow church members? If so, what did that look like? Were you successful in applying God’s Word to your life?
- Do you have an example you would be willing to share of a time or incident when love was not evident in your life?
- If you serve in the church, is it a labor of love or a burden to bear? If it is a labor of love, how has it remained this way? If it is a burden to bear, how can that be changed?
- The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What characteristics do you display well?
- Scripture tells us that we will know Christians by their fruit, by how they measure up to Jesus. How do you think you measure up to Jesus? What fruit do you need to ask God to ripen in your life?
- How do you abide in Jesus? What kind of plan can you put in place to make sure you abide in Jesus so that He will abide in you?
As a group hold each other accountable to abiding in Jesus and loving well. Pray and ask God to fill you with a passion to abide in Him daily and to ripen the fruit of the Spirit in your life.