“We have been brought from the world to become members of the church, the body of Christ. We are to come into perfect harmony of feeling, and unity of faith.”
“The apostle Paul, speaking of the church of Christ, likens it to the human body and its members. The unity existing between the members of the body represents the unity that should exist between the members of the church. The mutual dependence of the followers of Christ is illustrated by the dependence of the members of the body one upon the other. ‘Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.’ ‘And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.’ This figure, as representing the church, is full of the most tender significance to God’s people, both as to their relation to Christ, and to one another. As in the natural body the suffering of one member is recognized by every part of the being, so in the church the weakness or sorrow of one member reaches all others with its influence; and the strength of one is the gain of all. Christ, the head of the church, is ‘touched with the feeling of our infirmities.’
“Contemplating the intimacy of the relation between the followers of Christ, Paul writes: ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.’ . . .
“We have been brought from the world to become members of the church, the body of Christ. We are to come into perfect harmony of feeling, and unity of faith. ‘Speaking the truth in love,’ we are to ‘grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.’ The natural defects of our characters must not be allowed to create disunion. We must surrender our wills to God, till every thought is brought into obedience to Christ. There is a work for us to do before we shall be able to work as harmoniously together as is represented by the union of the body.
“Those who profess to be members of God’s family, and who expect to stand one day around his throne, should be careful to cultivate here the spirit that will prevail in Heaven. ‘Love is the fulfilling of the law,’ and the love of Jesus in the heart will bind his church together in bonds of Christian fellowship, like that fellowship which will exist in the courts above. We have no need to err; for we possess a perfect pattern in the life of Jesus by which to fashion our life-actions, and the fact that we represent him so poorly should make us humble, and should lead us to exercise love and forbearance toward others who may err. Unless we do cultivate humility in view of our own deficiencies, there will be developed in us an element of hard-heartedness akin to that in the character of Satan. Criticism and coldness and disunion in the church will undo the work of the Holy Spirit of God.
“We need a work wrought in our characters such as will fit us for the great responsibilities that Christ has laid upon us. There are souls to be saved on every side, and we need to love others as Christ has loved us, if we fulfill our obligations to our fellow-men. Those who indulge a spirit of jealousy, who are constantly inclined to think evil, and to judge the motives of others, are not possessors of the love of Christ, nor fitted for his holy service.
“When a brother is in error, how many turn away and leave him to himself to pursue his wrong course, to depart from Christ and the truth! And not only do they treat him with neglect, but their unwise words and indifferent behavior hasten him on in the downward way. Is this the compassionate Spirit of Christ? When one is falling away, shall we push him into greater darkness? Did not Jesus, the Son of God, come to seek and to save that which was lost? ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’ Was not our Saviour tender and pitiful toward all? Did he not weep over the rejecters of his mercy, and stretch out his hands all day long to a rebellious people? We ought to be compassionate to our fellow-men; for they are the purchase of the blood of Christ. We are not as sympathetic as we should be. This self-esteem must be rooted out, this spirit of pharisaical importance must be subdued. We are not placed here to please or glorify self, but to glorify God by living for the good of men.
“Every Christian should exercise the same pity toward the erring that he would have manifested toward himself; but in many cases, the very ones who are themselves the most sensitive under reproof, are most unfeeling toward those whom they condemn. If a brother errs, how easy it is to tell others of his fault before a word is said to him. Such a course is not in accordance with the Bible rule. God does not want us to expose the defects of others before the unbelieving world, or even before the brethren in the church, except as it may be necessary in carrying out the Bible direction.
“God wants us to come into the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and then we shall do from the heart deeds of kindness that will bless others; then everyone will know that the truth of God has done something for the character and life of those who profess to believe it, that Christ dwells in the heart by faith, and that religion is a living reality. . . .
“God wants us to have love; far better to have too much than too little. God himself is love; we should be like him. Christ is full of compassion; we should daily learn of him, and put in practice his lessons of love, by showing the tender spirit that he manifested. It will cost us no more effort to speak words of comfort and kindness than of harshness and jealousy. We should seek to bind up the broken heart and to heal the wounded spirit. We shall have no desire to bring others down in humiliation before us if we are actuated by the love of Christ. Our whole desire will be to lift up the thoughts and elevate the minds of those around us, to exalt the truth and draw men to the Saviour of the world.
“There are those all around us who are dying for want of the love of Jesus expressed in the life of his followers. When the lifeless hands have been folded over the silent breast, how many have wished they had been more gentle, more tender. You cannot make confession in the ears of the dead, but you can exercise love and forbearance toward the living. Oh, that all might appreciate the privilege now given to sweeten the existence of those around them by the loving sympathy that so cheers and encourages the sad and lonely heart! . . .
“Christ requires us to love one another. How much, the cross of Calvary will answer. He loved us even unto death, and he bids us to ‘love one another as I have loved you.’ ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ And when this mutual forbearance and tenderness is a reality among us we shall appreciate the significance of the figure employed by the apostle to represent the church of Christ. ‘Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.’ You will then bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”*