We may think that it should be a given that churches experience rich and authentic community. The church should be the best example of what it means to be community. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out to be that way. First, are are broken people and are prone to make mistakes while failing others. Second, we get complacent and forget that if we are not community, we’re nothing. Jesus doesn’t call us to follow him in isolation but in community.
All that being said (and you can read about part one here), we would be underselling our faith experience and the teaching’s of Jesus if we stopped there. When we experience what it means to be loved by God and then follow him in community, there is one more way for that love to go, OUT.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, his response was profound and probably surprising to his listeners. He didn’t answer with just one commandment, he gave them two. Out of the 613 OT commandments, Jesus narrowed it down to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6) and Love your neighbour as yourself (Lev 19:18). We think that loving our neighbour is a new thing, but God instilled this as early as Leviticus. Israel learns this when God challenges them to love strangers and aliens as he loved them in Egypt. Then of course Jesus brings it full circle when we brings the two commandments together. Paul even reiterates these words in Galatians 5:13-15.
This Jesus creed, as it’s been referred to, is so profound – you cannot love God without loving people. If this is true, and we know it to be, then our idea of community has also got to be expanded. We love God together with others, and then let that love compel and inspire us to love our neighbours, the ones we like and the ones we don’t; the ones on our street and the ones overseas.
In Matthew 25, Jesus lets us in on what it means to love God, on what it means to know God. He says that those who didn’t serve the marginalized and the poor and the broken actually weren’t close to Jesus at all. But those who served the very least in our society and world were actually the closest to Jesus. Why? Because by serving them we are serving Jesus – By loving them we are loving Jesus.
When we come to grips with these gospel texts, we can’t get away from the reality of community. It’s not just a community of love for one another, but a community of love for others. As beautiful as a church community can be when its working right, it’s never fully right unless we’re releasing our love to our neighbours, to the least of these, to the ones who are with us and the ones who are not. Jesus’ love is big and boundless – it’s far reaching.
Maybe the biggest hurdle to really loving our neighbour is simply beginning to see them as ‘us’ and not as ‘them’. Loving someone who’s part of your family is (normally) easier than loving someone who’s not. So let’s starting seeing others as God’s image bearing kids. We act graciously towards others and serve them when we move from seeing them as ‘you’ and being seeing them as ‘us’.
There are two ways followers of Jesus SERVE community: collectively & individually.
As a church community, we will always offer opportunities to serve collectively; things like Running4Home, community events, local volunteer opportunities, missional endeavours, giving resources away, etc. Those are things to look out for and partner with.
As individuals, what are we doing to serve community? We tend to look for organizations to partner with or events to collaborate with. Those aren’t bad ideas, but Jesus simply said to love your neighbour as yourself. How can we do that? Where do we start? Here’s a simple thought:
Watch / Pray / Respond.
– Watch for what God is doing. Watch for needs in your neighbourhood and city. Watch for broken things that need to be mended and healed.
– Pray for discernment. Pray for neighbours. Pray for your city. Listen to and for God’s direction.
– After watching and after praying, begin to thoughtfully think about how you will respond to a broken situation. Respond with love, with skill, with resources, with respect, with care, with Jesus.
It’s amazing what can happen when we simplify this process and allow God to use us.
We ARE community
We SERVE community
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
small(er) group questions:
Is it easier to BE community or is it easier to SERVE community?
What causes us to get out of balance in our expression of love? Why do some people love God and not others? Can you love others fully without loving God?
Pick one or both of these scriptures to look at and talk about:
– Matthew 25:34-40
– Galatians 5:13-15
What does loving your neighbour look like to you?
Brainstorm about some ways that we can SERVE community better? As a church family and as individuals?
(We do realize that there may be some baseball distractions that interfere with our focus tonight. We understand:)