Then the apostles and the elders, with the consent of the whole church, decided to choose men from among their members and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leaders among the brothers, with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the believers of Gentile origin in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. Since we have heard that certain persons who have gone out from us, though with no instructions from us, have said things to disturb you and have unsettled your minds, we have decided unanimously to choose representatives and send them to you, along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
So they were sent off and went down to Antioch. When they gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. When its members read it, they rejoiced at the exhortation.
Psalm 57: 7-11
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast.
I will sing and make melody.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is as high as the heavens;
your faithfulness extends to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens.
Let your glory be over all the earth.
John 15: 12-17
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Ministry in the church is primarily about meeting people in their vulnerability and tending to them as Jesus would. Jesus first and foremost gave us Himself relationally and offered us salvation through His death and resurrection. He also healed us of our diseases, freed us from demonic affliction, taught on the scripture bringing knowledge and understanding to God’s laws, and He united us in fellowship to one another. These are the ministries of the church in which we are called to love. In doing so, we will evangelize and bring one another into salvation through relationship with Christ. We will meet tangible needs related to external difficulties. We will bring healing medically, through prayer, and emotional support. We will aid in deliverance ministry and teach one another the faith. But every act of ministry has to flow from a point of loving each other.
Too often though, as the Church, we view ourselves at odds with the rest of the world. While we are the Church Militant and we need to stand up for our faith, the scripture also says that the battle is not against flesh and blood but against the forces of the devil. When we survey our social landscape and we see the division, angst, and animosity of the culture, it takes a diligence and discipline to recognize that the devil is the one turning people away from Jesus and into despair. Satan is the real enemy while those caught in his snare are the beloved children of God, confused, misinformed, and estranged from Jesus’ love. God invites us to remember to hate the enemy and fight against him, yet to love our long lost brothers and sisters back into relationship with Christ.
Fred Rogers, best known as Mr. Rogers, is quoted saying, “From the time you were very little, you’ve had people who smiled you into smiling, people who talked you into talking, sung you into singing, and loved you into loving.” We recognize on the most surface levels of humanity that we need to first be examples of something before we can expect it from someone else.
Today, consider the efforts you make in ministry. Ask yourself if you are motivated by love for others. Has selfishness, defensiveness, or competition entered the picture? Invite Jesus to cleanse you of the areas that are not of Him and let Him meet you in your own wounded areas. Allow Jesus to fill you with His love so that your life, ministry, and actions can flow from that encounter.