A kind note of encouragement. Cups of coffee shared over good conversation. Friendship that allows authenticity. All are simple blessings I’ve received this year that brought deep joy and mirrored the love of Christ. I have been indescribably blessed by the body.
I once had a friend asking me questions about my faith and one of the “Christianese” phrases that she didn’t understand is “the body”. For example, you may hear a Christian say “we are all members of the body.” Thinking about this from her perspective I could totally see the reason for confusion. “What does this church sermon, and these people here, have to do with my body? They say we need to build up the body? Well, sure I go to the gym and exercise! Does that count?” Ok, so these examples are a little silly, but you get the point. As a believer living overseas, one thing I’ve realized is that some phrases get lost in translation.
In Christian circles (especially American ones), we often use “the body” to refer to the body of Christ, or in other words the Christian Church. So, for any new believers, non-believers, or our friends from other countries out there, hopefully that helps what I’m saying to make a little more sense.
Today, friends, our focus is how we are called to bless those in the body–the amazingly diverse, gifted, and also very human body of Christ.
Right after Paul writes to believers in Rome about how each one of us has a gift and is a vital part of the body of Christ, (Read the couple past weeks of this blog if you haven’t had the chance yet—you will be encouraged in this area!) he enters into a “how-to” section for living out our Christian faith in ways that will build up and bless the body.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i]to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Wow. Sister, I don’t know about you, but when I read this passage I was convicted by at least one (or more…) areas where I need the help of the Holy Spirt to love others and bless the body of Christ. But, how awesome is this guide, the Word, so full of ideas of how to encourage each other and point people to Jesus! His grace is sufficient for us, so if you are like me and have experienced both successes and failures in loving the body well, take a deep breath and be encouraged that you are not alone in this. We can take steps forward together today, into living life as a part of the Christian body as God intended.
All too often I’ve fallen into a pit of guilt and self-criticism over how I have missed opportunities to love my fellow believers well. While the Word is convicting, the enemy is deceitful. Don’t get stuck in that shame, friend. I’m so thankful for new days and new chances to put these words into action. So, give yourself some grace and let’s talk about how to give it to others too.
Let love be genuine. I walked into the Jackson’s house and the smell of home cooked food immediately greeted me. Their toddler joyfully bounced around, a few kids sat reading or chatting, one tried to help out where they could. Meanwhile, their mom was finishing up the cooking in the kitchen. Not everything was completely set out and prepared yet, and that was okay. As guests came, a few more dishes were made, and we added to the Easter spread on the table. Easy conversation and laughter filled the room. Everyone pitched in where they could—the roles of guest and host mixing together. Even though I was far from home on Easter Sunday, there was a feeling of family, of belonging. The table had a beautiful assortment of food, all incredibly delicious. But what was even more refreshing was the authenticity of the Jackson family. Their openness in their struggles in parenting and desire for growth. Their willingness to share doubts and questions in life, admitting they don’t have it all figured out. That vulnerability and their genuine love made each person feel welcome and free to be themselves. Around their table (or living room, as the people outnumbered the dining room chairs) there was space given for growth, never a boasting of achievements. This family is just one that the Lord has used to show me how hospitality can be done in a way that tangibly shows the love of Jesus to the body.
Caring for the body of Christ includes loving on those who are overlooked too. The widows, the single mom with a busy work schedule, the shy church member who slips in and exits quietly each Sunday. I think we all can picture someone who may get passed by and needs a little extra love.
Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. I’ve discovered that I am naturally task oriented. If I’m on a mission, I have a hard time allowing myself to get sidetracked. While this can be a good thing, it can also be my downfall. It’s caused me to miss chances to just sit and listen as sisters in Christ share their burdens. I’m ashamed to admit I often too quickly give an “I’m so sorry you are going through that. I’ll be praying for you.” and then go on to the next thing I need to do. I’ve been convicted of this lately and moved to ask the Holy Spirit to transform this part of my heart to be more in line with the gospel. Jesus stopped for the one; as image-bearers we are called to do the same.
Overcome evil with good. Bless when it’s not easy. When searching the word “bless” in the new testament, something caught my attention. Most of the verses referring to blessing others are about blessing those who curse you or persecute you. As much as we want to our bodies of believers to be happy, perfect places where each and every person shows and is shown Christ-like love at all times, the reality is that we are human. The temptation when we are offended by a fellow believer is either to avoid the conflict (That would be me!), gossip and slander the person to others, or retaliate in some way. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9. For me, when we are hurt in any way by another Christ follower, it feels worse than if we are offended by a non-believer. We expect them to know better, make wiser choices, or love more sincerely. Trust is broken. Sometimes we just assume the worst.
How would church culture change if we instead seek to bless the very people that cause us hurt? What if we choose to extend grace and mercy instead of assuming the worst? What if we show love even when they didn’t? It’s easier said than done, but the Word says when we choose to bless, we may just be blessed ourselves. Let’s choose to live at peace.
Be constant in prayer. We’re often quicker to share our burdens or joys with each other than to pray about them. I was caught off guard in the best way one day at work when I was talking to my co-worker about some difficulties going on in my life. As we were standing outside at recess time, watching our students together, this friend said, “Can I pray for you about that?” I was honestly a little surprised (which tells you how often we don’t stop to pray), but felt so genuinely cared for in that moment. My co-worker prayed with eyes open, like they were just continuing a conversation they had been having all day.
Friends, I hope today we can all be encouraged to love our neighbors, seek to bless them, and through that have deeper and more meaningful community within the body of Christ. In loving and serving each other, all image-bearers of the Lord, we are fulfilling our mandate to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5
Be blessed, sisters in Christ!
Mary is a fellow Jesus-lover, a wife, and an elementary school teacher. She’s originally from a small town in southwest Virginia, but now lives in a city of 15 million in Asia. In her free time, she can be found chatting with friends over coffee, seeking out new places to travel, or in comfy pajamas on her couch. You can find her on Instagram @maryw09.