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 (Manna 72: Love—the Bond of Perfection)
The Bond of Perfection
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The Bond of Perfection

Vincent Yeung—Cambridge, U.K.

We live in a divided and fragmented society where reconciliation and unity are deemed impossible. This division manifests itself in different forms, ranging from benign self-isolation and simmering discontent to open conflicts. The sporadic flare-ups between Israelis and Palestinians, border skirmishes between North and South Koreans, ethnic violence between Han Chinese and minority Uyghurs in Western China are manifestations of such divisions. The dividing line is between religions, political ideals, and races. The situation is also fanned by the culture of adversarial politics where leaders of society play one group against another, drawing on social status, criticizing higher earners out of envy. At the opposite spectrum, politicians try to inculcate the idea of workers and shirkers, the latter being labeled as “undeserving poor,” and their impoverished conditions of existence presented as the result of their choice. Are these observations just a modern phenomenon, or are these universal shortcomings of human nature?

Apostle Paul exhorted the believers in Colossi to put on the new man[1] after they had been raised with Christ.[2] He defined this new man as one who does not differentiate between Greeks and Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, foreigners and Scythians, slaves and freemen.[3] The old man is plagued by demarcations of history, race, ideology, lifestyle, nationhood, and status. Believers are encouraged to put away this old man to make room for new characteristics.[4]

Dividing human nature

It is our nature to like and affiliate with those with whom we share the same background, culture, occupation, and status. Such unity enables us to exchange thoughts and ideas. Differences in race, ideology, way of life, nationhood, and status appear to us as formidable barriers. We find it difficult to invest time and effort to understand divergent ideas and viewpoints. Our instinctive response is to remain in our comfort zone, never venturing into unfamiliar territory, fearing rejection or frustration. In the same vein, we may even consider our ideas and way of life to be superior to those who happen to be different because our experience tells us that this is the right way to conduct our life.

The apostles could not break free from their traditional thinking, which prevented them from leaving Jerusalem to preach the gospel to all nations.[5] Only with divine intervention[6] and submission to God’s will[7] did Jesus’ great commission eventually come to fruition. We should be mindful that our subjective mode of thinking does not suppress or supplant God’s perspective.

We are in the right

Many examples in the Bible illustrate human  propensity to seek justice and claim what is rightfully theirs. The parable of the unforgiving servant tells us of a servant who failed to forgive his fellow servant’s debt, even though his master had forgiven his own.[8]  A man asked Jesus to help him gain a fair share of his father’s inheritance.[9] Corinthian believers resorted to civil court to adjudicate their grievances.[10] The Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were overlooked in the daily serving;[11] a grievance aggravated  by the thought that these ladies were victimized or ignored because of their identity.

The sense of injustice in material matters pales when the same mentality is applied in the spiritual realm. The hired men in the parable of the workers in the vineyard complained because they could not accept that the latecomers, who had worked less hours, received the same reward as them.[12] The elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son complained because he believed that his younger sibling, the prodigal son, was unworthy to receive his father’s forgiveness and love. His bitterness was augmented by his belief that his father had failed to acknowledge and remember his loyal service.[13]

We despise the weak AND judge the non-conform

It is also human nature to envy those who are better than us.[14]  Believing we are different[15]  and better, we fight for supremacy and recognition[16] and we look down on those weaker than us[17] or whom we perceive as unfitting.[18] Such behavior could only result in envy, strife, and division in the church. The book of Romans recorded a row between two groups in the church. One group saw it fit to eat meat, while the other group only ate vegetables.[19] The differences in their ways of life resulted in these two groups despising and judging each other.

The ungodly nature of human behavior is a potent dividing force within family, community, and society. The saints were conscious that such behavior persisted within the church community and therefore regularly reminded believers to put off this old man and assume the wholesome nature of Christ.

WHAT BIND THE DIVERSE GROUPS TOGETHER?

The concept of one body permeates throughout the Bible.[20] A body consists of many parts and each part has its own function and unique characteristics.[21]  The differences between the components do not result in rejection or antagonism against each other. Instead, each part compliments and supports each other to ensure the whole body functions effectively.[22]

The dividing nature of human behavior needs to be counteracted by God’s love in order to uphold the body of Christ. The new man depicted in Apostle Paul’s exhortation is not by name alone; it is characterized by mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, and longsuffering.[23] These characteristics are the manifestation of love,[24] which diametrically oppose the divisive human nature denoted in previous examples.

Because love quietly covers all things and thinks no evil, love can neutralize adverse reactions that may arise when we are offended or neglected. As our perception is determined by our own thinking, a seemingly offensive statement could be overlooked completely, whereas an innocuous statement could be interpreted as spiteful, malicious, and provocative.

King Saul was furious when he heard women praising him and David, singing: “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands.[25] He did not take it as a compliment; instead, he became angry with David. The Bible describes this as “evil in his eye,[26] which sparked off a series of destructive events. Had Saul interpreted the statement as praising God’s greatness and mercy, the calamity that befell him and the sufferings of many could have been avoided.

If we harbor no evil thoughts, then we would not assume people are intentionally targeting us. It is not uncommon for believers to complain that the sermonizers are targeting them; yet instead of judging the sermonizers’ intentions, we should ask ourselves whether we have kept God’s word. When we are offended, we should retreat rather than retaliate. God has forgiven us; likewise, we should forgive others.

The virtues of patience, kindness, hope, and endurance enable us to maintain quietude and inner tranquility when faced with continual challenges and mistreatments. When confronted by the Philistines[27] on several occasions, Isaac did not fight for his right. Instead he retreated, and God blessed him. He was in a broad place” because he made room for himself.[28] Compassion, brotherly love, and tenderheartedness[29] are the obverse of envy, pride, and self-seeking; such virtues restrain us from provoking others,[30] repaying evil for evil or reviling for reviling.[31] All these wonderful characteristics of love help us to overcome evil[32] and bind us together in unity.[33]

BE PERFECT

The oneness of God, our faith, one Spirit, one hope, and one calling succinctly denote the commonality of all believers. We are united, yet different, diverse, and gifted in various ways for the betterment of  Christ’s ministry.[34] Perfection only comes when we are united in thought, faith, and knowledge of Christ and when we assume the full stature of Christ.[35] We can only put on this new man by putting off the old one.[36] As we are expected to assume Christ’s stature when we are in Christ, we should move from “Christ light” to Christlike.

The stature of Christ is expressed in His self-emptying[37] and self-sacrifice. He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.[38] His love does not depend on who we are,[39] what we are,[40] and where we are. This is unlike the reciprocal love that man expects.[41] God’s unconditional love also does not depend on how likeable we are.[42]

Paul invites everyone to be touched and compelled by the love of Christ,[43] to live a life for Christ, and to become a new creation.[44] This new mode of existence entails God’s love and is self-giving. The self-seeking mode of egocentric existence should give way to unconditional love. Only when we are truly Christlike, are we deemed to be perfect.[45]

Attaining perfection is a process rather than an instant transformation. We learn to be perfect by self-giving instead of self-seeking. We learn to serve with the gifts God has given us, and we learn to love by being more tolerant of others[46] and by removing the conditions under which we could love.[47] If everyone in the community of faith assumes the love of Christ, we will have peace.[48] No longer will there be any situation or provocation that divides us, for we are bounded by God’s love.

 Christ has once and for all united the Jews and Gentiles by breaking down the middle wall of separation, abolishing the enmity, and creating in Himself one new man from the two.[49] This new man, a new creation, assumes the nature of Christ. We have freely received His grace through the redemption that is “in Christ” Jesus.[50] Being “in Christ” means we have lost our identity,[51] and the “I” no longer exists, but Christ lives in us.[52] By the free gift of God’s grace, we are brought into His family, and we have peace and satisfaction in Him. His grace also enables us to live for others rather than for what others can give to us. Jesus’ commandment to abide in His word and His love unites us in Him;[53] this new mode of thinking and living binds us together.[54] Therefore, when we host a dinner, let us invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind, and we will be blessed.[55]

The body of Christ comprises many parts that are jointed (or knit[56]) together and “grows as God nourishes it.[57] The love of Jesus and our love towards Him and our fellow members knit us together.[58] This bond is not by blood, race, interest, and locale, but by the perfect love of God, which causes us to coalesce and be joined together. Hence, it is vital that we empty ourselves to truly breakdown the barriers that separate us. Only then can this bond of love be perfect.



[1]  Col 3:10

[2]  Col 3:1

[3]  Col 3:11

[4]  Col 3:10

[5]  Mt 28:19; Act 1:8

[6]  Act 10:11–12; 10:47

[7]  Act 11:18

[8]  Mt 18:28–30

[9]  Lk 12:18

[10] 1 Cor 6:1–8

[11] Act 6:1

[12] Mt 20:11

[13] Lk 15:29–30

[14] Act 13:45

[15] 1 Pet 5:5–6

[16] Mk 9:34

[17] Jas 2:3–4

[18] 1 Cor 12:21–25

[19] Rom 14:1–3

[20] Rom 12:1, 5; 1 Cor 10:17, 12:12–13, 20; Eph 2:16, 4:4; Col 3:15

[21] 1 Cor 12:21–24

[22] Rom 12:4–8

[23] Col 3:12–13

[24] Col 3:14

[25] 1 Sam 18:7

[26] MKJV, 1 Sam 18:8

[27] Gen 26:14, 15, 20, 21

[28] Gen 26:22; the well’s name “Rehoboth” literally means “broad place.”

[29] 1 Pet 3:8

[30] 1 Cor 13:4–7

[31] 1 Pet 3:9

[32] Rom 12:21

[33] Col 3:14

[34] Eph 4:10–12

[35] Eph 4:13; cf. Phil 2:2,5

[36] Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:22–24

[37] Phil 2:7

[38] Mk 10:45

[39] Mt 9:36

[40] Mt 5:45

[41] Jn 5:44; Mt 5:46,48

[42] Rom 5:8

[43] 2 Cor 5:13–14

[44] 2 Cor 5:17

[45] Mt 5:48

[46] 1 Pet 4:8; Eph 4:2

[47] 1 Pet 4:9

[48] Eph 4:3

[49] Eph 2:14–15

[50] Rom 3:24

[51] Gal 3:28, 6:15

[52] Gal 2:20

[53] Jn 15:7,10

[54] Jn 13:34

[55] Lk 14:1314; cf. 1 Pet 3:9

[56] Greek for “knit”: συμβιβζω [symbibazō]
    Strong’s G4822: I. to cause to coalesce, to join together, put together
                                    A. to unite or knit together: in affection

[57] NLT, Col 2:19

[58] Col 2:2

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Author: Vincent Yeung
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