As a child, I often encountered crawdads when playing in the creek with siblings and cousins. They were just part of our summer fun. We caught them for the enjoyment and challenge of it, before letting them go.
But unlike us, some people like my cousin caught them to eat them.
“When my cousin invited to go with him and fish for crawdads (crayfish), I couldn’t help but be excited. I grinned when he handed me a plastic pail. ‘No lid?’ I asked? ‘You won’t need one,’ he said, picking up the fishing rods and the small bag of chicken chunks we’d use for bait. Later, as I watched the small crustaceans trying to escape a mostly full bucket, I realised why we wouldn’t need a lid. Whenever one crawdad reached the rim, the others just pulled it back down.”1
While you may never have fished for crawdads, you may have seen this same type of behaviour in people. Sometimes selfish and putting our own well being over that of others, we act to the detriment of all. Instead of supporting and helping one another, we pull each other down. Our criticism and complaints discourage those who are about to succeed. How very, sad it is when this sort of thing happens in the church! It is both sad and unacceptable.
The scriptures teach us that the opposite ought to be true of Christians. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” – Philippians 2:4 (ESV).
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” – Galatians 6:2,3 (NLT).
Paul went into a little more detail in his letter to the Thessalonians.
“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing. Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other. Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15 (NLT).
Paul complimented the Thessalonians before urging them to do even better. He wanted them to form a caring community. A loving church family whose members built one another up and lived in peace. His letters to other congregations called on them to forgive each other in a spirit of kindness and compassion. Heeding these admonitions would strengthen their (and our) relationship with God and with each other.
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” – Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV 1984).
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” – Ephesians 4:31, 32 (NLT).
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” – Colossians 3:12-15 (NIV 1984).
Paul’s instructions are timeless and are needed just as much today as they were when they were written. Congregations may still be relationship challenged. It takes real effort to relate positively toward those who are negative, grumpy, and complaining. Yet scripture tells us we have an obligation to find and encourage the best in all of our fellow Christians. Jesus’s was very clear about it. Our Lord commanded us to love one another. No exceptions.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” –John 13:34, 35 (NIV 1984). Not only are we to love one another, we are to love as Jesus loved us. That is a high standard. Just tolerating or barely getting along won’t cut it. This message was so important that He repeated it a few chapters later.
“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you” – John 15:12 (NLT). And again in verse 17, “This is my command: Love each other.”
Today it is not uncommon to hear one Christian say to another, “I love you”. It is a good thing to express our love for each other but love (agape) is more than just words.
The apostle John wrote: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” 1 John 3:18 (ESV).
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” – Romans 12:9, 10 (NIV 1984).
“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart” – 1 Peter 1:22 (NLT).
Love is not supposed to be based on the how love-able the other person is. Nor does it stem from our feelings or the personal “chemistry” we may have with someone. I comes rather from our relationship with God and our awareness of that God loves both us and that other person.
“Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.”
“We love each other because he loved us first. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.” “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.” – selections from 1 John 4:7,8; 11,12: 19-21; & 5:1 (NLT)
Our struggle against sin does not end when we become a child of God. It is hard not to bring our sin and selfishness into our new lives. Like crawdads, our former selves would have us claw our way to the top no matter who we have to pull down to get there. When crawdads behave badly, they all get eaten. Surely we can do better.
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” – Galatians 5:13-15 (ESV).
May we grow ever closer to God. May see our brothers and sisters in Christ the way He sees them. Christ died for each one and each is precious. May we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, rise above our basic instincts to love others sincerely and from the heart. May our love not depend on the worthiness of others but the worthiness of the One who has loved us first.
1 “Plight of the Crawdads” by Xochitl Dixon in Our Daily Bread, January 13, 2018; published by Our Daily Bread Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Basis for this article was taken from a sermon given by my husband, Don Hipwell.