Summary: Loving each other in the body of Christ requires a long walk...but it’s worth it.
Norman Vincent Peale used to tell a story about a missionary in Africa who received a beautiful seashell as a gift from a student. He had walked a long way to the coast of Africa to get the special shell for his teacher. "You’ve traveled so far to bring me such a wonderful present," the missionary teacher told him. "Teacher," the boy replied, "long walk part of gift!"
There have been many long walks in my life; mostly, I’ve been on the receiving end. Many folks have shared the blessings of life with me and my family. The one that stands out far above all of them is the long walk that JESUS took for me. His walk was to the limit of love, when He went to Calvary’s hill.
The beloved apostle John had a lot to say about the long walk of love:
9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:9 - 11 (NRSV)
These verses tell us that God loved us and presents the conclusion that God thought love was priority one; so we ought to love each other.
There isn’t a person in this church who would disagree with the fact that love is a good thing – even perhaps the most important thing we can have in our lives. But, if I asked you to DEFINE love, could you do it in eight million words or less? Perhaps, for most of us, it is much more possible to explain the EFFECTS OF love (how it FEELS to be loved) rather than to try to give a definition.
So let’s investigate what Jesus meant when He whispered to John’s heart to write down that we ought to love one another.
Note the BIBLICAL CHARACTERISTICS of a walk in Christian love.
23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23 - 24 (NRSV)
These words of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount are called the "law of the New Testament". Love can only be expressed to another; we cannot keep it inside. Notice how Jesus says that when we discover that a fellow believer has something against us, it is OUR responsibility to start the reconciliation process. I call this the HONESTY OF FULL DISCLOSURE.
Today many folks are not willing to take the trouble it demands to start reconciliation. Leo Buscaglia said; "I have a very strong feeling that the opposite of love is not hate – its apathy.” When we are too afraid, or too tired, or too busy, or too proud to begin the process of getting it right with a fellow-believer, we are not moving in an attitude of love.
It is not a mystery why folks, don’t want tc be the one to start reconciling; you become quite vulnerable. That goes against human principles of survival. We would rather be safe and protected than to reach out and be in danger. Someone who is willing to stand up and say the words that will honestly get folks stirred-up and thinking about what it takes to make things better, is usually about as secure as a sugar-coated fly in a spider’s nest.