We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Colossians 1:3-5

Paul has thanked God for the Colossians’ faith in Christ, and now he focuses in on the second reason he is grateful for them: their love for the saints.

We’ve already learned about the word used here for saints, hagios, in a previous post. It means most holy thing — a term Paul uses in all of his letters to address believers in Christ, the Church.

There is strong emphasis among modern Christians on love for the lost, the poor, the broken, the stranger. I am glad, for there is no doubt these souls and causes are near to the heart of God.

But somehow we’ve stepped away from the holy ground where these loves take root: our love for the saints.

Christ said it clearly Himself: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). Any desire to reach out must start with reaching in, because the very way people know our faith and discipleship is real is by our radical love for each other — for the saints, the Church, the family of God.

You cannot move toward God and away from His people at the same time. Love for the lost and love for the poor and the stranger will wither and die without love for the saints. They become causes without a reason, adoption without a home. We can’t invite people to feast at God’s family table if we never sit there to worship and break bread ourselves.

If I could hammer one thing into the heart of every girl I’ve counseled or woman I’ve taught, it would be this: spiritual isolation is a wrecking-ball to the soul. The Tempter came to Eve alone in the garden; he pulled Christ aside in the desert to speak his lies. Listening to your voice alone eventually makes you your own god. Your pride will become your crown; your judgments and needs will sit on your throne.

But those who have love for the saints — their brothers and sisters in Christ — will do these things:

Work things out instead of walk away.
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. I John 4:20

Sacrifice for the saints.
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? I John 3:17

Die to self to live in community.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. I John 3:16

This takes Jesus, because you and I both know family is often the hardest to love. As Paul says, it can only come from a hope laid up for us in heaven. We must know deeply that eternity is our reward in order to stop demanding our relationships — even ones with God’s people — fully satisfy us now.

And just one more thing about loving the saints:

Guess who’s one of them? You.

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many, but some days we can’t help grabbing more nails and staking our own hearts with condemnation.

Today, instead of staggering under your own self-crucifying blows, kneel in humility under the cross instead. Love yourself through the eyes of Christ who loved you, O little one of the hagioi. You are made most holy by His blood and His name — a part of the family of the one true God.

Believe, and belong.