An unloving and critical spirit is clear evidence that there is something wrong inside. We see things in others that we do not like, and we forget that God is looking into our hearts and seeing there many things grievous in his sight. Lovelessness eats as a canker in our souls, taking away joy, power in witnessing, and a sense of the presence of Christ. It grieves his heart and tarnishes our spirits.
On every hand one comes in contact with frictions, jealousies, back-biting, gossip, and just plain bad manners on the part of some Christians in their attitudes toward and dealings with other Christians. There is not one of us who has not been guilty of this in some measure, so there is no need to point the finger of accusation at others unless we search our own hearts and recognize and confess this great sin ourselves.
I remember a day that brought separate visits from two Christians who live in different cities but have occasion for repeated contacts with each other. From each there came a tale of criticism. They were utterly miserable and did not know why. Each was cherishing a grudge against the other. Each thought he had been wronged. Each was bitter in his criticism of the other.
As I listened I was sick at heart. I know both of these persons well, knew that they are unquestionably Christians and that God has used them, each in his own sphere. But here was a spirit that dishonored the Lord and greatly lessened their influence as Christians. This situation may, unfortunately, be considered commonplace within the Christian community. Brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Often there is the clash of personalities. One considers himself better than the other, or the peculiarities of one person “get on the nerves” of another and he breaks forth in words of resentment and criticism. How easy it is to magnify the peculiarities of others and to ignore the possibility that our own idiosyncrasies may be even more offensive!
At other times our anger smolders at wrongs someone has done to us. Sometimes these wrongs are the products of our own imagination. When the wrongs are real, we may forget that forgiveness is a Christian virtue, based on God’s forgiveness to us. Who are we to cherish resentment when God has forgiven us for so much?
Often we clash with others because we are determined to have our own way. Willfulness and self-assertiveness are often signs of immaturity or ignorance. Many times I myself have been sure of my own judgment and sought to carry it out only to find that someone else had a much better idea.
Many times the failure to exhibit Christian love is a case of just plain bad manners. Christians should, of all people, exhibit love and consideration of others, but they often fail miserably. A little girl is reported to have prayed: “Oh Lord, make more people Christians, and then make more Christians nice.”
That there should be secret scheming by Christians against other Christians seems unthinkable, but if we search our own hearts we know that many of us have been guilty of this sin.
Again, petty revenge ever lurks in the wings, anxious to assert itself in the guise of righteous indignation, or contending for the faith, or some other pious-sounding but hypocritical attitude.
How many of us love to gossip! We hear about backsliding by a fellow Christian and can hardly wait to tell someone else. And in the telling the story grows and becomes distorted, to the injury of our brother and the scarring of our own souls. Somewhere along the way Satan attached the word “harmless” to gossip. What a trap!
In all this harshness and lack of Christian love, the solution rests with the individual Christian and his Lord. God will give the grace to overcome this sin, and he will give us Christian love through his Spirit. But we must practice this grace. With it comes a wonderful change in attitude toward others and peace in one’s heart.
Our Lord spoke of the priority of reconciliation over acts of worship. He tells us first to be reconciled to our our brother, then to come to him in worship. This is not easy, for it requires the grace of humility, but what peace and joy it brings to the one who is so reconciled!
Basic to such love is a realization of God’s love for us in Christ. He did not come to die for saints but for sinners such as we are. This love of both the Father and the Son is reflected in our hearts by the indwelling Spirit.
Paul tells us that God will teach us to love others, even the most unlovely (1 Thess. 4:9). In Galatians 5:13 and 14 he says: “Through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The definition of Christian love is one we should study repeatedly. It involves patience, kindness, without either jealousy or boastfulness. It does not insist on its own way, is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
How far most of us come short of these standards! Unbelievers look at us and scoff. Believers consider and mourn.
Paul, speaking of the works of the flesh, numbers far more sins of the spirit than of the body. “Enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy”—eight of the fifteen specific sins mentioned in Galatians 5:20 have to do with our relationships with others.
The Kingdom of God is hindered because so many of us who name the name of Christ show little evidence of Christian love.
But where such love is found, how winsome and refreshing! The healing balm of love is desperately needed in a world where Satan tempts us to the very opposite. Faith abides because it is a reaction of man to God’s offer of salvation. Hope is a result of our faith in the saving and keeping power of Christ. But it is love that demonstrates to others that our faith and hope are genuine.
May God enable us to love our brothers for his glory!
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