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September 2022 GPS

I doubt that I will ever forget the long months during which our church dealt with the threat of Covid19. For a short time we did not meet in person at all; we only met via technology (which continues to the present day as an option). Then, as time passed we met outside in the parking lot for many weeks. Finally, we met inside wearing masks and being distanced from one another. Now we meet, some with masks, without the large distance between each other. Some, for various reasons, still join us via the internet, but many have said in my hearing, “It’s not the same as being there.” There are a number of reasons why that is so. For example, technology provides a “one way” ministry, but we need more than that. God designed the church to provide “two way” ministries between lots of people. We see this illustrated in various “one another” passages in the New Testament. This month and in the next few months we will look at some passages that identify specific ways in which we are to minister to “one another.” The first way we will consider, in a sense, covers all the rest. It is our responsibility to love one another. Three passages specifically teach this responsibility. The first one talks about the quality of love that we are to express toward one another. The second and third passages talk about what we might call the quantity of love we are to show toward one another. We will look at each passage in order to discover what they teach us about how we are to love one another.

The first passage is Romans 12:9-10. “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.” In verse 5 of this chapter, Paul had reminded his readers that, as believers, “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” There is a sense in which all of us are related to one another like different parts of a body are organically connected to one another. With that organic unity in mind, Paul issued his exhortations to love one another. He introduces those exhortations with the admonition, “Let love be genuine.” “In the NT, it [the word behind “genuine”] came to mean one without hypocrisy or pretense, unfeigned, genuine, real, true, sincere.”1 We are not simply to fake it or act like we love one another. Our love is to be real. In the exhortation itself he tells us we ought to love one another with “brotherly affection.” This verse uses all three of the four Greek words for “love” which are found in the New Testament (eros, denoting sexual love, is not found in the New Testament). In some cases in the New Testament the three words are used in a nearly synonymous sense. In this verse they are used in a way in which, although their meanings overlap each other, they demonstrate the different facets of the love we are to show toward one another. When the three words do have somewhat different meanings, storge denotes love for family members. It is the love that wells up in your heart when you hold your newborn child for the first time. The next word, phile, refers to the love of friendship, the connection you have with a “kindred spirit.” The third word, agape, denotes a love that is not motivated by external factors. It is simply a decision to do what is best for the object of your love. It is hard to imagine how we could adequately express these kinds of love if the only contact we have with one another is “virtual.”

The second passage is 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13: “[M]ay the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” In this verse Paul expresses the wish that their love for one another (and for all others) would grow, not diminish or even remain unchanged. Furthermore, he desires that it would increase to the degree that it could be described as “abounding.” That is, “to be in excess, exceed in number or measure. In the NT, to be or have more than enough.”2 What would it look like if our love for each other grew to the point that those we love would have more than enough of it?

The third passage is 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10: “Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,” (1 Thessalonians 4:9–10, ESV) For the second time in this brief epistle Paul brings up the topic that our love for one another ought to be growing. Here he says that the Thessalonians do not need further teaching about loving one another because God Himself has taught them to do this and they have been doing it. But, Paul urges them to “do this more and more.” The implication seems to be that we can never completely fulfill all of our responsibility to love one another.

If we meet only via the internet when we have other options, do you believe that we can obey these injunctions to love one another as friends and relatives or simply as people who need love in the way we are intended to? Will our love for one another continue to grow the way these passages call us to love if our connection with each other is solely with a computer or a wide screen TV? I realize that even if we are meeting face to face we still may not love one another as we ought to, but is the solution resorting to technology? Isn’t the right solution meeting together and asking the Holy Spirit to produce more and more love for one another in our hearts?                                               -Pastor Robert Spicer

1 Zodhiates, S. (2000). In The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). AMG Publishers.
 2 Ibid.