We are commanded to love God with all of our heart, mind, and strength. We strive for this by the help of the Holy Spirit, but our sin-stricken flesh prohibits us from loving Him perfectly. But one thing we can be certain, strive as we might, our striving will fall that much more short if we are not faithfully committed to the Body of Christ expressed in the local church.
I dare say, our love for God is tainted the further detached we are from His Bride in the local church. Sin keeps us from loving God with all of our hearts, and lack of love for God’s people is certainly sinful, and hampers our “love potential” for Christ.
However much we think we love God, we do not love Him as much as we can and should the more distanced we are from His local body. We might even say their is a proportional relationship between our love for God and our love for His people in the local church.
Ultimately, this means more than having Christian friends, it means more than co-laboring in parachurch ministries, it means more than internet ministries and fellowship, and it means more than Sunday worship. The one-anothers are meant to be practiced in the context of the local church. We are called to faithful service to one another. We are called to build one another up. We are called to bear one another’s burdens. We are called to sacrifice for each other, and stir one another to be zealous for good works, and so much more.
In his article 40 reasons to be a part of a local church, Jesse Johnson writes,
Is it possible to live a faithful Christian life without being a faithful part of a local church? I’ve heard many people make the argument that it is indeed possible—especially if there are no good churches around. I disagree.
At the bare minimum, there are forty different commands in the New Testament to live life in some sense with other believers. While certainly it is possible to do some of these with Christians in general, the weight of this list should convince you of the necessity of having on going relationships with other believers.
And those relationships are only strengthened by the fellowship of the local church. In fact, I submit that some of this list is simply impossible to obey if you do not have the kind of ongoing and ever increasing fellowship with other believers that only comes through ministry in a local church.
I agree with Jesse. It is impossible to fulfill these commands faithfully outside the local church. It is therefore impossible to love God as much as we possibly can in these yet-to-be-glorified bodies outside loving Christ’s Bride expressed in the local church.