Yes, Virginia, there is (hard) work to be done.
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
15 Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.
17 Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. 18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. 20 But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. 21 He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. – Philippians 3:12-21
I’ve done my share of hard work. I’ve previously chronicled my days in the brickyard. I’ve also leveled basement floors with rock prior to pouring concrete. And then there is the job of pushing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of concrete from the truck to the basement floor. I’ve carried shingles up the ladder to the roof, and then nailed down the shingles. I’ve carried creosote-infused railroad ties from one place to another. Hard work!
I’d like to think that living the Christian life in the context of the church, and relationships within the church would be easy. Not so. Sadly not so. Paul’s mention of “those who are mature” reminds me that the challenges of living with other fallen human beings are real, and that some are more mature in their faith than others.
Some people are easier to love than others. Some people require more grace. And before we catalog our friends into lists of greater or lesser grace required categories, we had better remember that we may find ourselves on several people’s lists in various degrees of grace needed: Some may find it more difficult to love us than others.
Jesus says, “Love one another, even as I have loved you.” Jesus loves us as we are – warts and all. That’s how we are to love one another – warts and all. Sometimes that is hard work. Sometimes we have to go the extra mile. Sometimes we have to hold our tongue. Sometimes we have to suffer for another. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our time, or change our priorities, or even our money for someone we love.
Sometimes we may even have to be overly-patient with others – at least in our own minds. But that’s a good reminder of God’s patience with us: The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9).
God may be calling you to repent of your impatience, lack of love, or failure to act on the level of maturity we have attained. Thankfully, he forgives and restores. We must do the same.