John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Among the many “radical” teachings of Jesus, we could definitely put this verse in that category. The Bible teaches that only when a heart has been changed by the power of the gospel can we truly love another person. A life lived without Jesus is a life lived without love.
Love is the first key to a healthy church.
As we look at the world around us, we see a society with a warped view of love. I don’t have to get into this because you already know what I mean. That is why when people actually “love” one another, it serves as a powerful witness. Just think of the early church. When the world watched these crazy people who truly loved and cared for one another, they knew there was something different about them.
“This is how all men will know that you are my disciples” – not because of how you dress, or how much money you have, or how trendy you are, or all the connections that you have, but……by your love for one another. This biblical understanding of love forms a key element when it comes to the health of any church. A church without love is not a true church.
A second key element is unity.
A healthy church will be united around the cause of Christ and His gospel. Just to clarify, I am using the word unity to describe a group of people who come together for a common purpose. In the Bible, one of the metaphors commonly used is “the Body of Christ.” As you well know, there are hundreds of different parts that come together to form our physical bodies. They are all important and all serve a specific purpose, just as God intends. But only when all the parts come together do you have a healthy, functioning body.
The same is true with the Body of Christ, the church. If half the parts are not functioning and being used, you have a sick body that will never perform as it was intended. However, if all the parts are working together for a common purpose and mission, you have a healthy body that will be used of God.
Paul explains it this way in Romans 12:4-8: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
There you have it – two keys to a healthy church. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but in any church where love and unity are missing, you can be sure that church is not functioning as God intends.