Love is hard work. We often think about it as if it is some sweet emotion that naturally flows out of us when prompted, but love, at least as defined by Scripture, is hard work. It often involves showing compassion and forgiveness when we are least interested. It means committing to another person’s well-being even when it’s not convenient for us. love is difficult. And so when we see it in our brothers and sisters it ought to be something we celebrate and praise God for. That is how Paul responds when he prays for the Colossians. He thanks God for their love of others, and that’s something for which we too should thank God.
Paul’s opening address unpacks what he prays for on behalf of the church at Colossae. He prays and thanks God for their salvation, we discussed that last week. But then he adds that he’s not only thankful for their salvation but also for their love of others. He writes to them saying:
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints (Colossians 1:3-4)
It’s a curious thing to do. Why is Paul so impressed by their love? Why is he so impressed that he praises God for it? These are important questions to answer as we think about praying for those who are part of our immediate Christian community.
There’s something unique, in Paul’s view, about their love for “all the saints.” It is certainly not true that all Christians love each other well. Paul knew this as well as we do today. The church among the Corinthians was full of divisions, and even among the people of Colossae there were some creating controversy and stirring up trouble (see 2:16-23). Peace is not something that just happens in churches. Many of us know this first hand. It requires real effort. This is why the author of Hebrews says to “strive for peace” (Heb. 12:14). It doesn’t just happen, you have to “strive” for it, you have to exert real effort and energy. It’s presence, then, in a church is a big deal and ought to be celebrated. Where there is love we can expect to find a people walking close to Jesus (1 John 4:20-21).
It’s clear that Paul sees this love as something divinely given. He refers to it as “love in the Spirit” (1:8). These are Christians who love well because they understand the gospel well, because they are fueled by the Spirit of God. Their love of each other is worth celebrating because it is so rare, sadly even in Christian circles sometimes. Are you thankful to God for the love that you see in the people you worship with?
It’s easy for us to get frustrated with one another and to point out all the problems in our churches, or all the weaknesses in our brothers and sisters. But do we take time to thank God for the love that is demonstrated by those in our fellowship? I am thankful for the young men and women at Revolution who give freely of their time and energy to serve one another and those outside our church. I am thankful for the young lady at our church who insists on watching my kids and forcing my wife and I to go out. I am thankful for many countless people who volunteer to work nursery. I praise God for the love they show each other, whether its buying lunches for each other or just spending quality time together. I praise God for the young women who have at various times called for church-wide prayer for our pastors. I remember fondly the many folks who came out to join together in prayer for a dear friend. This is love that should be celebrated.
Are you thankful for the love found in your church? Are you praying for it to increase and continue? Love is hard work. When it is present it deserves to be celebrated.