We look around us and are daunted by the poverty and suffering and darkness we see. We know it will take a lot of work to change, and we know God asks us to, but we often choose to sit back and wait.
It’s easy to be lazy and complacent and wait for other people to do the work. But these are some of the most dangerous ideals. They threaten the kingdom of God. The whole body of Christ needs to be working together if we are going to get things done. Even if the hands are equipped with a hammer and nails, they can’t get anything done if the feet don’t take them to the construction site. We simply have to rely on each other. Paul uses the body metaphor in 1 Corinthians to remind the church of the importance of unity. He says:
“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Corinthians 12:24b-26 ESV)
We have our own jobs, families, and lives, and these things help us justify spiritual laziness in the church. Sometimes, we don’t even notice we are failing to act because we feel like it’s a positive thing to be investing in ourselves. Laziness can, and often does, mask itself as selfish hard work. We might be working for recognition and self-righteousness instead of in love and for Christ. But we have to acknowledge that work done for the wrong reasons has no place in the kingdom of God.
The body of Christ needs to be operating together—and it needs to be moving with the intent God desires. When believers do things for the wrong reasons, the action itself is rooted in selfishness and sin. The action may be fruitful for a time, but it will crumble because it has the wrong foundation. The church cannot stand on actions carried out without love. Paul understood that it is difficult for believers to be united for the right reasons:
“And I will show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:1 ESV)
I know we’re all a little tired; it seems like less work to focus on our lives than it is to participate in a body of believers. It’s especially hard when we don’t call all the shots. Listening to God’s direction, and any leader’s direction, makes us incredibly vulnerable. When we start putting others first, we stop guarding ourselves as much as we like to.
But it is vital that we do this. We radiate God’s love when we love others. And the body of believers will not lose anything by rejecting selfishness, and choosing love instead. Paul reminds us:
“If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3 ESV)
It’s not enough to have action without love, and it’s not enough to love without action. The things we do on a daily basis should be in response to the callings God puts on our lives. We need to be giving it all we have. Paul returns to this issue in his letter to the Colossians:
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17 ESV)
Let us, as the church, check our motivations at the door and leave our selfishness at the foot of the cross. Think of what we could accomplish together, if we truly acted as one, with a heart of love and thankfulness:
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23 ESV)
Satan wants a lazy church. We fail when we work for people and not for the Lord. But if we, as different members of the same body, rely on love—if we root ourselves in the foundation of God’s love—we can bring real change and light to the world.
How do we, as Christians, overcome depression? In this sermon I examine the story of early Christianity from the perspective of the book of Colossians, particularly Colossians 1:1-23. I look at how Saint Paul and Christians in general overcame great odds, including depression. In the process I share how I personally overcame depression. This sermon was delivered at The Table, a missional church plant in Bellingham, Washington on October 5, 2014.