When J. K. Rowling gave the commencement address at Harvard in 2008, she said something very astute: adversity tests you and your relationships.
Christians frequently speak of our testing as individuals by the suffering we endure, but rarely do we discuss how adversity tests and reveals relationships within the church. That’s odd, because Jesus said some emphatic things about our relationships with each other:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Later that same evening He prayed:
“I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.”
Francis Schaeffer said the love of Christians for one another is The Mark of a Christian, and in the book he wrote by that name he called John 17:21, The Final Apologetic. This is the apologetic given by Christ Himself to all peoples and for all times. Questions asked of Christians may change according to the issues of the day, but our love remains the mark that we are His disciples, and it remains the final apologetic to the world that Jesus was, in fact, sent by God, and that God, in fact, loves those who have believed in Jesus.
Paul spoke to relationships within the church:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
…weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:10–13, 15b
As did James:
“If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors….
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
James 2:8–9, 14–17
As did Peter:
…love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 1:22b*
As did John:
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
1 John 3:16–18
As did the author of Hebrews. In fact, it’s remarkable that for all their problems he commends them in chapter six for the love they have shown:
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints….
Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.
Hebrews 6:10, 13:1–3
When someone you know is going through adversity, he’s not the only one being tested. Your reaction to his adversity is your test. Before you consider him weak, consider yourself.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
How are you doing with your test?
*This translation of 1 Peter 1:22b is by Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter, 1988, p. 74.
Barmhartige Samaritaan (The Good Samaritan), Han Wezelaar: Gouwenaar, Public Domain.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter