Vision of Genuine Love in a Community
One of the most obvious realities in the human experience is how deeply relational it is. We are born into and will live in a multitude of dynamic and complex circles of relationship that include but are not limited to: family of origin, ethnicity, extended family, gender, friends, religion, and government. The health of these relationships shapes the nature of how we experience life. If these are healthy and whole then we experience the world in one way yet if these relationships are unhealthy then we experience the world in a completely different way.
With the advent of sin in the human experience through Adam and Eve we see brokenness in all our circles relationship. Our relational circles are so broken due to sin that we experience great pain in many of our relationships and perhaps have even lost the vision of healthy and whole circles of relationship.
The explosion of social media is a perfect example of our need to connect with others and it also highlights the brokenness of those circles with things like cyber bulling, sexting, and Facebook depression. I was told the other day that kids who heavily use social media are more depressed than kids who use less social media.
The New Testament is filled with the vision of circles of relationship being redeemed through both Jesus’ presence in those circles (where two or three are gathered in my name I am there Matthew 18:20) and the power of the Holy Spirit filling the disciples of Christ (Ephesians 1:13) who live in those circles. A well know text which gives us a vision of what it looks like to live with each other based on agape love is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. You will notice that agape love isn’t a feeling but a way of treating each other.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
We need to stop and thinking only briefly about what it would be like if we actually lived this way, to realize how truly wonderful it would be. It would be so different than how most of the world experiences their circles of relationship. In short it would be truly revolutionary. Circles of relationship based on agape love is what our society is most desperately in need of. Renewed circles of relationship based on agape love is possible for disciples of Jesus because God has given the disciple of Jesus power to live a new way based not on their power but by his power. Living by Jesus power and grace is what gives us the boldness to sing “they will know we are Christians by our love”.
17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. (Ephesians 1:17-19 NRSV bold type mine)
The Church is to be a place where we experience and offer genuine love based on the grace and power of our Lord Jesus. It is hard, but not impossible to experience agape love in the large public gatherings of a congregation or during her task based gatherings. Rather it is something cultivated in smaller gatherings which are marked by trust, vulnerability, and availability. These smaller gatherings are where can be known and get to know others. If these gathering are to be transformative they must rooted in God’s Word. It is in these smaller gatherings where genuine love can be learned and can grow to be the norm. These groups provide support to the disciple and a witness to the world of what life in Christ looks like when lived with others. The biblical word for these gatherings is koinonia which means communion or fellowship. Romans 12 provides a beautiful vision of koinonia or true community saturated with the Holy Spirit and yielded to Christ Jesus as Lord.
I am deeply thankful of Dallas Willard’s list (from Renovation of the Heart) of what living a life of grace and power looks like in our social relationships from Romans 12.
1. Letting love be completely real.
2. Abhorring what is evil.
3. Clinging to what is good.
4. Being devoted to one another in family like love.
5. Out doing one another in giving each other honor.
6. Serving the Lord with an ardent spirit and all diligence.
7. Rejoicing in hope.
8. Patient in troubles.
9. Devoted to constant prayer.
10. Contributing to the needs of the saints.
11. Pursuing hospitality.
12. Blessing those who persecute us.
13. Being joyful with the joyous and sorrowful with those in sorrow.
14. Living in harmony.
15. Not being haughty.
16. Not seeing yourself as wise.
17. Not repaying evil for evil.
18. Having due regard for what everyone takes to be right.
19. Being at peace with everyone as far as it depends on you.
20. Never taking revenge but leaving revenge to God.
21. Providing for the needs of our enemies.
22. Not being overwhelmed by evil but overwhelming evil with good.