What church would say of you, “We know you love us”?

The New Testament repeatedly indicates that anyone who does not love the church does not belong to the church, that is, the body of Christ. In other words, anyone who does not love the church that Jesus loves is not a follower of Christ.

One of the best known verses in this regard is 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers.” The “brothers” here is an explicit reference to the church, to “brothers” (and sisters) in Christ, that is, those who comprise the church of Jesus Christ.

Similar is 2 John 1, “The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth.” The “elect lady” here refers to the church, likely to a specific local congregation of believers in Christ.

We might classify the viewpoints of everyone toward the church in four ways. First would be those who would explicitly say they do not love the church. This would include atheists and many of those who are adherents of non-Christian religions.

Second would be those who are indifferent to the church. They might not speak against the church with any frequency or vehemence, but neither do they speak of loving the church. On occasion they may speak with appreciation or respect for the church, but generally they never think of the church unless some item in the news brings the church into their consciousness.

The third group would be those who say they love the church, but whose personal lives contradict their professed love. Many of these would proudly be on the membership roll of a local church. Some might even occasionally attend the worship gatherings of the church. But their priorities betray their “love.” The members of their church do not perceive they are loved any more than a wife feels loved by a neglectful husband.

The final group consists of those who both say they love the church and consistently demonstrate love toward the church in biblical ways. Like a husband who does not just respect women in general but loves the particular woman who is his wife, true Christians do not merely love the church universal, but a particular local expression of it. Their priorities prove their love; not in the maintenance of simply dutiful obligations, but in sincere demonstrations of love and service, actions born of a heartfelt love for the people of Jesus and their common aims.

What church would say of you, “We know you love us”?