By BARBARANNE KELLY|CONTRIBUTOR
We’ve all seen them, the posters (or posts) of a lovely scene with a woman throwing her arms wide with abandon, or walking away from the camera with purposeful step, overlaid with a quote meant to inspire, saying something like:
“Sometimes walking away is the only option. Not because you want to make someone miss you, or realize they took you for granted. But because you finally respect yourself enough to know that you deserve better.”
The memes are many. Whatever the specific quote, the message is clear. Don’t trust other people because they will deplete, disappoint, hurt, reject, abandon, or take you for granted. The solution: Keep a cool distance. Protect yourself. Walk away.
This message resonates with us because we have all been hurt at one time or another by those with whom we share close relationships, whether in family, friendship, or church. But if we are to live out our faith, is this a message which we should take to heart? Is this how we are to live in union with Christ?
Now, I am not suggesting that we stay in a truly unhealthy situation, in a church teaching unsound doctrines that flow down into unbiblical relationships. What I am saying, is that even in the most doctrinally-sound churches, where faith and life are worked out of a biblical framework, everyone there will still be in the process of sanctification. People who are still in the process can and will hurt one another. People like you and me.
This week in our book study of Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, we covered chapter three, wherein the authors teach what ought to be our motive behind doing women’s ministry. The bulk of this chapter was the text of a sermon Ligon preached at a women’s leadership conference which he begins with, “The only reliable motive for encouraging women’s ministry in the local church is an insatiable longing to see the display of God’s glory in the local church.”
Our motives must be planted in the unshakable grace of God, because, “If our ultimate motivation for service to God is simply because we love people, we will never be able to sustain the call to service that God has given to us because the very people we are called to serve will break our hearts. It is only the grace of Christ that enables us to persevere.”
Has your heart been broken by someone at church? Have you wanted to withdraw, to keep a cool distance, to protect yourself? Or, have you found that you are the one who has hurt someone else? Relationships can be messy; isn’t it simply easier to not get involved—to walk away?
Our Lord Jesus Christ, while he lived among his disciples, knew what it was like to minister to and with hurtful people. The Lord of glory who came to save his own people was rejected by them, misunderstood, and reviled throughout the three years of his ministry. During his ministry, his disciples bickered with one another, seeking their own glory: to be served rather than to serve. Later, it was one of his own disciples who betrayed him while another denied him and the rest abandoned him at his lowest point.
And yet, as he ate his last meal with them, knowing full well that he would be betrayed, denied, and abandoned, he looked them in the eyes and said, “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.” He later re-emphasized the point: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Knowing who they were, how very weak and unstable they could be, he still commanded them to love one another sacrificially. Knowing them better than they knew themselves, he did not choose to keep a cool distance or protect himself; he did not walk away. He laid down his life for them.
And, knowing how weak, unstable, and prone to hurt feelings we can be, he commands us the same. To live out our ministry in the church we must love one another—sacrificially—even when it hurts.
How can we do this? Peter gives us a clue in his first epistle when he writes, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” Jesus could suffer without withdrawing or defending himself because he entrusted himself to his Father, in whom he had complete faith. We also can entrust ourselves to the Father in complete faith. We can persevere in obedience to his commands and live out our faith in the context of our relationships in the church, because he has lavished upon us the riches of his grace in redeeming us by the blood of his Son, according to his purpose and plan to unite all things in Christ!
We are partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, fellow heirs with those in our church alongside whom and to whom we are called to minister in love. To love one another, we must lay down our defenses and draw in close, knowing that we risk being depleted, disappointed, hurt, rejected, abandoned, or taken for granted. Even still, we can entrust ourselves to him, because Christ loves his church so much that he gave himself up for her. And when we love one another, empowered by the Spirit, we get a glimpse of, and show to a watching world, a display of God’s glory in the local church.
Sisters, let us love and serve one another, keeping our eyes on Jesus, praying with Paul, that, according to the riches of the Father’s glory he may grant us to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
 J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2006), 45.
 Duncan and Hunt, 46.
 John 13:34-35
 John 15:12-13
 1 Peter 2:23
 Ephesians 1:7-10, paraphrased
 Ephesians 3:16-19, paraphrased
 Ephesians 3:20, 21