As Jesus watches Judas walk out the door to betray him and start the dominoes falling that will lead to his death, he gives his disciples a new command, “Love one another.” In saying this Jesus implicitly also tells us, “Let the church love you.” Which of those commands do you find easier?
At Lawson Road we emphasise three “love commands” as part of a theme we call LR-cubed.
- The Great Command – Love the Lord your God. (Matthew 22:37-38)
- The Second Command – Love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)
- A New Command – Love one another. (John 13:34-35)
In this post I’m talking about the new command – Love one another.
I want to come at this command from a different perspective. We rightly think of this command as an attitude for us to integrate into our lives. It’s all about transforming the natural self focus into an other focus, beginning with those closest to us: our spiritual family.
Often overlooked in this command is the assumption that we want to be loved. And that we’ll let people love us.
In our culture there’s a tremendous honor with being a self-made man or woman. We generally value rugged individualism more highly than great collaboration skills. A business launched from a garage gains more acclaim than one that results from years of study and education. This emphasis upon individual achievement encourages our society to hide our weaknesses. Vulnerabilities can only prevent us from achieving our goals.
So allowing ourselves to be loved actually pushes against some deeply ingrained cultural values.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9 Paul wrote about God “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
God’s strength isn’t made perfect in our self-sufficiency, or our inner strength, or our ability to resist temptation, or desire to “soldier on”. God’s strength becomes evident when we willingly share our limitations and weaknesses, and the areas of our lives where we need God to pick us up.
Is this Faith Development?
Here’s a process I often see. People start coming to church because we’ve got stuff going on in our lives that prompt us to question our bigger picture. The church loves us and helps us work through those issues. We discover our need of God and commit our lives to following Him, accepting Jesus’ sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
Then, once we’ve moved past those initial questions and problems we start to feel like God’s in our life and we should have our stuff together. God’s supposed to have “fixed” me, right? So we begin to keep our problems and struggles to ourselves. We begin to create distinctions between what’s for the church, and what’s personal. Even though deep personal issues may have brought us to this loving church in the first place, we develop a list of private topics that are off limits to others.
As this pattern evolves we paint ourselves into a corner to where we look up one day and say, “I don’t know if I really want the love of the church.” Deep inside we do, but we now realize it’s going to cost us something. And we’ve grown comfortable over here.
We brought in the La-Z-Boy.
We’ve hung a couple of pictures.
I’ve got a flat screen on that wall, book shelf under it.
The coffee pot sits on the bookshelf.
Occasionally, we let people into our corner where we can have a polite conversation, perhaps about the problems a friend’s experiencing, or a book we’ve read recently. Very civil.
We long to share our pain and receive comfort, healing and renewal. In the deep places we long to break out of our corner, but to do so requires some words that we’re not ready to utter:
- Boasting about weakness;
- Confession (James 5:20);
- Submission (Ephesians 5:21);
- Openness; and
Sadly, it’s often more comfortable to be eaten by a La-Z-Boy than to step out of the corner and share our hearts. But the church can never “love each other” if we never acknowledge and share our need for love.
How’s your heart? Will you let the church love you?