This is a continuation from the 'Creating Community' post - if you haven't read Part 1 yet go check that out then come back...it'll make a lot more sense! Part 1 left us talking about the different aspects required to really create a community. Continuing on that, we're gonna talk about LOVE.
When Jesus talks about love He talks about Agape love; that is, an unconditional love. Agape is the spirit that says, 'no matter what any man does to me I will never seek to demand something from him, I will never seek out revenge. That's Christian love - it's the way God loves us and it's the way we must love others. When we read about loving our neighbours, loving our community, loving God, we should have this definition of love in mind.
There are different relationships that reflect this king of love and we'll be looking into all of them. These are
1. God's love for man
2. Man's love for God, and
3. Man's love for man
Ultimately we will also tackle the root of all those statement - what exactly is love?
So, let's jump right into it!
1. God's love for man
God's love can be described in a number of ways. It is all embracing - no matter what race, sex, age, personality type you are you fit into the 'loved by God' category. No exceptions. His love is unmerited - we did nothing to deserve it, it is not a prize of some sort. His love is sacrificial - Jesus gave up His life for us. It is merciful - God does not need us to turn to Him, He doesn't have to wash away our sins. His love is a conquering love - it enables us to overcome trials and struggles. Sometimes God allows us to go through difficult patches but we grow through them, they are maturing processes. It is inseparable - no matter what we do we will never be separated from it. Not death, not sin nothing will separate us from His great love. It is correcting - just as a father would correct us. It is a jealous love - God expects totally devotion from us through our lifestyle. Finally, God's love is an everlasting love - it is written 180 times throughout scripture. God's love will never fade, it will never dwindle it will never cease to exist.
2. Man's love for God
Our response to God's love should be an exclusive one. It should be obedient. Our love for God is a response to His love for us. We don't start the initiative, we simply respond. It's a sign of the fruit of the spirit. if we live according to the spirit a result will naturally be to love God.
3. Man's love for man
Our love shouldn't be a personal thing, it's not private. Love doesn't exist solely to be shared between you and God. He expects us to love one another, in an Agape-love kind of way. Starting frstly from our own families. 1Timothy 3 talks all about how we can't even consider calling ourselves Christian if we don't start off by loving our family. Families are so important that, in fact, they're always being attacked. Broken families, siblings that don't get along. We didn't choose our families like we chose our friends and God uses this exact fact to grow us and mature and train us to (unconditionally) love people. We can't remain insular as a family unit. We are called to be hospitable, to include others, to be able to be there for others, to open up our homes to anyone. Agape love reaches out to our neighbour and Jesus made it clear that absolutely everyone falls under the category of 'neighbour'.
'More people can be brought into the Church by the kindness of real christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness of so called Christian than by all the doubts in the world.'
- William Barclay
Ouch. That kinds stings doesn't it? Think of your community, think of why you started going to meetings. Was it because you heard a great theological argument? Or was it because someone showed you real, genuine love?
We have the power to bring people to God with our actions but we also have the power to repel them.
Christian love includes our enemies. Uh-oh. Those people that are pain in your backside, the people who persecute you, the people who make fun of you. The people you, quite frankly, just simply don't like. I'm sure reading that made at least one person pop into your brain and the reality is that you love Jesus as much as you love that person. Jesus says 'Father forgive them for they don't know what they're doing'. Whatever grudge we may hold against 'that person' we are called to forgive. If Jesus forgave the people who spat on him, beat him, ridiculed him and eventually killed him than we can forgive those people that have hurt us in our lives.
So what is love?
It is sincere, it open hearted and open minded, it knows nothing of corruption or deceit, it is jealous, it is worthy of your time, money and energy, it is active, it's forgiving, it's united seeking always to make peace, it's positive, it's sensitive, it's aimed at building up people in Christ.
That seems impossible right? Well, without God's grace, it kinda is!
In the context of community, loving in this way is extremely difficult. But in reality, who are we doing it for? We are doing it for God. We are doing it because we love Jesus. In those moments when it's really dark we really need each other and we need to rely on God. The reality is this however - we start off in our community with good intentions but somehow along the line we start doing things in our own strength and because of that the human self comes in. There are moments when we'll look at our community and think 'these are a bunch of hypocrites, why am I even here?' and that will be true. Once we rely on our own strength we will make mistakes, we will sin, we will be hypocrites. We have to live in the Spirit and do everything for Him, for His reaffirmation not to receive glory from others.
We are called to be Christ's ambassadors but with great privilege comes great responsibility. If that sounds familiar it's because it's almost a quote from Spiderman, but Marvel comic or not, it's true. We have the responsibility to love in an unconditional way, we have the responsibility to be the first ones to act out of love.
When a man asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was He happily listed them. He quoted the 10 commandments but he leaves out the once we would think are most important - the ones relating to God himself instead he puts in to simply love your neighbour as yourself.