Y’all – I have to tell you the truth – being a Christian isn’t always easy, pretty, simple, or uncomplicated.  Sometimes it’s really hard, and really messy.

Just like an artist dirties her hands with her paint, dripping pigment on her clothing and splattering the drop cloth at her feet, creating a mess at the same time she creates a masterpiece, so too is the walk of the Christian life.  Sanctification is a messy business, but it is the process by which all Christians become more like our savior, and it is for our good.

And we are not sanctified in isolation.  You see, God calls a bunch of sinners who are stumbling around in darkness and says, “You are mine.  I’ve redeemed you and I love you.  I am light, and I’m putting my light inside of you.  Now be the light of the world.  Glorify me, and serve each other.”  And that part is awesome, supernatural, amazing, and sweet.  That is the Gospel.

But then he also says, “Now live in community with other believers, obey my Word (that is, the Bible), and love each other.”

And he means it. 

He doesn’t say, “Love your sisters in Christ, as long as they are loveable.”

He doesn’t say, “Love your brothers in Christ, as long as they never offend you.”

He doesn’t say, “Love each other…until it gets too messy.”

He says love each other.

In John 13:35 Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  This means that when we love other Christians, it is evidence that our profession of faith is real.  It confirms that God’s light is inside of us, and that our hearts have been made new through a genuine and saving faith in Jesus.

1 John 2:9-10 says, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.”

This means that hating a fellow Christian is incompatible with being a follower of Christ.

This is major, friends, and it should cause all of us believers to pause, and search our own hearts.

God takes a bunch of messy sinners, with our imperfections, personality quirks, baggage from the past, and cultural differences, and then says:

Love each other as I have loved you.

That is a weighty command, and of course we cannot do it of our own strength.  On our own, we are unable to muster the strength necessary to love the sister in Christ who hurt us deeply.  On our own, we will fail every time that we try to love the fellow Christian who seems unloveable, or the one who annoys us, or the one who speaks a different language, or the one who wears the skirts that are a little too short for our liking.

So we look to Him.

And we ask Him, with humble…and needy…and messy hearts, “God, please give me the strength of your love so that I can love my sister in Christ, as you have called me to do.  Please open my heart to her.  Please give me the kind of love for her that comes only from you.”

So we love each other…and sometimes it’s really hard, and really messy.  Sometimes sanctification hurts.  But we persevere for the glory of our Maker, and we find that in the end he meant it all for our good.