As a pastor I am keenly aware of the importance of Christians loving each other as we have been loved by Christ. In my years of pastoral ministry I have spent many hours trying to get people to get along and not just get along but but to love each other genuinely. I have always been surprised at how miserable we are sometimes willing to live because we refuse to love and forgive one another as we have been loved and forgiven by Christ. This in and of itself should be a powerful incentive to be willing to humble ourselves and seek reconciliation with each other. There are few things in life more miserable than ill feelings towards each other; at least this is how I look at it. To have to walk into church and face people in which things are not right between the two of you or to live with someone in which communication and love is not where it should be has to be one of the worst situations possible.
And I think a case can be made that when we are unable to get along in the church in some way we quench the Spirit and the whole church suffers because of it. Yes, maintaining a healthy relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is about as important as anything we can do this side of glory but I am not sure how many would agree with that or at least live like they agree.
The Bible gives us some reasons why this is important and I want to mention three of them. John in his first epistle over and over again makes the point that a demonstrable love for the brethren is a must to be sure you are even saved to begin with. By demonstrable I mean a real love that can be seen, not some hypocritical ability not to constantly be at each other's throat. It is one in which we genuinely are concerned for each other and attempt to show it as much as possible. Here are a couple of verses where John makes this point, 1Jn 2:9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 1Jn 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1Jn 4:8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. So one reason why loving each other is important is because if we are truly saved this is who we are by nature. If we struggle to love God's people then we must examine ourselves as to our own conversion; it is one way to have assurance.
The next two reasons are found in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." One here is obviously the most important one, that the Lord would be properly honored. "By this all people will know that you are MY disciples" We are left here to glorify God in our lives in all that we do. Again, I am amazed at how little this plays a part in our thinking process. If honoring the Lord is the most important thing to us then we ought to have a sense of urgency when it is clear that we are caught up in something that is dishonoring him. Like I was saying earlier, it seems that more times than not we are willing to harbor bad feelings and attitudes towards each other for years in many cases as if what the Lord thinks is not nearly as important as that I can have my way and certainly I will not humble myself before anyone else.
The final one looks horizontally, not vertically; it is evangelistic in nature. It suggests that we are responsible for how we live in front of the lost as well as each other. It is good for us as people who understand the sovereignty of God to consider this from time to time. While we know that only the elect will be saved and that equally true all the elect will be saved, yet we cannot dismiss our responsibility to live in such a way before them that proves our profession. John brings this out again in Joh 17:21 that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me. We have a responsibility to live before the world in such a way to prove that the Bible is true and they in some way are responsible for what they see in the way we live.
I don't believe this means if they see we are still sinful no one will believe what we preach. If our ability to live perfectly consistent before the lost was necessary for their conversion no one would be saved. But it certainly puts a lot of importance on how we interact with each other and makes it especially sinful when we place so little importance on it. I think one thing being taught here is that lives of Christian love prove to those who see us that the power of God is real. It is a powerful statement that there is a divine power at work because such love is not a natural love. So when they stand before the Lord at the Judgment they will have no excuse as to why they did not look into these things when it was clear that the power of God was at work. Their rebellion against God will be made apparent.
As Christians let us take the command to love one another and to do so genuinely in the seriousness that it was given. It is not acceptable to fight and murmur and hold grudges and be cold to each other and especially to make no attempt to resolve it as quick as possible. This flies in the face of everything we profess ourselves to be.