The Characteristic I Desire
From the fist century church to the present there is one thing that churches have in common, conflict and division. Whether it is between congregants or denominations, Christians have an ability to choose extremes and build walls.
You might think this isn't true in your church, and I hope that is the case, but my experience is that even the best churches have rumblings that want to burst through the surface like a festering pimple (I know, gross). The way leadership deals with it makes or breaks the church.
Yet, through all of our contentiousness there is a characteristic the pervades the body of Christ like no other religion or organization. When we are truly following Jesus it marks us as unusual and unique. The Apostle Paul said he gave thanks for Colossians because,
"Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints."
What an encouraging statement. Faith in Jesus and loving the saints go hand in hand. Jesus said that the mark of following him was our love for one another. For Paul to make this the identifying characteristic of the Colossians was a great honor. Whatever issues that they were dealing with they got the love part down.
Of course empty love isn't godly love, and Paul acknowledges that the Colossians' love was based on the hope they had in Christ. They were living and loving out the reality of their faith.
We can be so mean to each other when we disagree. We believe so strongly in our theological and political views that we build walls to keep out the heretics. I believe we should have sound doctrine, and hold them firmly, but our doctrine should move us to love and seek reconciliation, to disagree with grace, and hold loosely positions where scripture is not clear. We need to live in the biblical tension of love.
I have received and given unkindness as a result of haughty views of biblical positions. We can find passages to support our beliefs. But what of love? True love binds wounds, heals hearts, reconciles relationships, forgives, lets go, and asks for forgiveness.
I will be known for a lot of things, some good and some bad. In the end I hope that someone will remember me for having loved the saints. I'm just saying.