All You Need is Love
Three years after the Beatles sang 'All you need is love', they broke up. It seems they needed something more than love; or, they really didn't have as much love as they thought.
Jesus was crystal clear about the distinguishing mark of his followers: 'By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another' (John 13:35). God intends his church to be place where people genuinely love each other, care for each other, support each other, encourage each other. If Jesus wants his church to be filled with love, why is that, it seems, so often it is not?
Let's take a step back. When we use the word church, we're talking about God's people. The church is not a building or a human institution, it is the people who belong to God.
Who is it that belongs to God? From God's perspective, it is those whom he purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20.28) and those who have been baptised by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
As I have written, the church is built on the foundation of the gospel - the good news of who Jesus is, what He has done, and what it means. But even the greatest foundation cannot turn a house into a home. The church is built on the foundation of Christ but furnished with love.
Love is what turns the house of God into a home.
Imagine going to the house-warming party of a friend - they've just moved into a new house, and you want to celebrate with them. They invite all their friends, but when you walk in, there is no furniture. There are no tables, chairs, shelves, art, lamps, carpets ... only bare walls and floors and ceilings. Who wants to live in a house like that?
It's not enough that the house of God is sturdy and strong - built on truth, but it must also be furnished with love. This is why Paul wrote to the Ephesians about the centrality of love in the life of the local church.
Imagine if you're friend who had just moved into a new house had also just put down carpets ... and the pathway to their front door was very muddy. What is the loving thing to do when you come to their front door? You would take off your shoes because you don't want to track mud across their nice, new carpets. In the same way, there are things we are invited to take off - and put on - as we come into God's house.
In his letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:17-5:2), Paul tells the believers there to take off three things and to put on three things.
Things to take off
1. Put off your old self
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires. 4:22
The old self is the old identity - the pattern of thinking, feeling, believing and behaving. It doesn't belong in God's church - put it off!
2. Put away falsehood
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbour, Ephesians 4:25
There's no place for lying in God's house, and there's no place for false teaching or doctrine. Put away anything false, inaccurate, untrue.
3. Put away corrupting talk
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths ... Ephesians 4:29
Our mouths are dangerous weapons, and we need to ensure that we are not spreading corruption through the words we speak.
4. Put away a bad heart and bad speech
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Ephesians 4:30
A bad heart is filled with bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour malice. These things come from unresolved offenses. Slander erupts from a heart filled with bitterness and malice and is designed to hurt others. Don't do it ... not in this house!
Things to put on
Note only do we take off the bad stuff, we put on the good stuff. That is, not only do we get the junk out of the house, but will fill the house with beautiful things to make it a lovely home.
1. Put on the new self
Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:23
Scripture promises that for those who are in Christ Jesus - those who have repented and believed - they are new creations in Christ Jesus. To put on the new self is to make a conscious choice to think, feel, believe, and act consistently with our identity.
2. Put on love
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2
Love is the sine qua non of being a disciple: true believes share with others the love they have received from Christ.
3. Put on forgiveness
...forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
God has forgiven is a GINORMOUS amount ... our sins against each are petty compared to the rebellious treason we have committed against God. If God in Christ can forgive us, we can forgive each other.
4. Put on Kindness
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted. Ephesians 4:32
What a beautiful place church is when we are filled with kindness - when we are friendly, generous, and considerate towards each other.
How can do all this? How can we put on love and forgiveness and kindness? How can we fill the church with the furniture of love that makes God's house feel like a home? The power of love is found in the gospel. Note the highlighted portions of these verses:
Ephesians 4:32: Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Ephesians 5:2: And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
The power to love is derives from receiving the love of God; the power to forgive derives from experiencing God's forgiveness. Open your heart to the love of God; open your soul to the healing of his forgiveness on offer in Christ, and be empowered by the Spirit to share that love and forgiveness with others.