Word of the Month

For the New Year

January 2006

We perceive that we live in a very restless time. Every day there are new reports about tragic accidents and even catastrophes. These events do not leave us indifferent. We notice that it is becoming more and more difficult to find peace and preserve our inner equilibrium. These global circumstances are also reflected in the congregations. We come together - and then we go our separate ways again. Sometimes I worry that the inner cohesion of the congregations is weakening.

What are we to do? I would like to call out to God's people with the words that Apostle Paul once addressed to the Colossians: "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3: 14). That is the secret that can forge us together as one and help us overcome all difficulties. Let us give love more room in our congregations!

In connection with this passage, Apostle Paul mentions many divine characteristics, for example tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (cf. Colossians 3: 12). Each one of these characteristics constitutes not only a great task in itself but also a great blessing. However, all these beautiful characteristics together will have no lasting effect in our congregations unless they are supported by heartfelt love. Just as a belt holds clothing, so too our love should secure these divine virtues.

Or to express this thought with another image: just as mortar holds the stones of a building together, so too our love must cement these divine virtues together so that they will endure. If the mortar is missing, the stones will fall apart. If love is missing, everything else will fall apart too. Since love is described here as the bond of perfection, we can also interpret these words to mean that love will finally lead to perfection in God's eyes. Mistakes and weaknesses are covered by the grace of the Lord; they have no weight. But love will bring us closer to the Lord and will finally lead us to perfection.

In another passage, Apostle Paul calls upon us to pursue love! This implies that effort is required. It is not difficult to love people who are close to us or those we find pleasant. But it requires great effort to love people with whom we do not have a good relationship, or people whom we do not find so pleasant right away. Here I am also thinking of people whose conduct is incomprehensible. How quickly such people find themselves nudged to the fringes of the fellowship! We would make it too easy on ourselves if we simply let them go. Love will always urge us to look for things that can unite us, and put aside whatever divides us.

So let us show signs of this love! It is my wish that the love of Christ will indeed make itself felt in all congregations. Then the Lord can come!

May these words accompany us through the year 2006: "But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection!" I pray for you daily and greet you in heartfelt love.

Yours,<br/> Wilhelm Leber