‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I love our church logo, for 3 reasons –
1) it reminds us of the people we’re primarily called to serve – the people of Allesley Park and Whoberley
2) it reminds us of our primary calling – to share God’s love
3) it reminds us that the cross is at the centre. We’re here because of the love God demonstrated in such an extraordinary way by sending Jesus to live and die for us. God’s sacrificial love for us should be at the centre of who we are as individuals and as a community. The only appropriate way to respond to love is to love in return. Our whole lives should be an expression of our love for God, lived out in devotion to the God who gave everything for us.
When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus replied that there were 2 – love God with everything you are and everything you have, and love your neighbour as you love yourself. Love God, love your neighbour. Share God’s love – receive it and give it out in whole-life worship of God and in loving each other.
But, what does sharing God’s love look like? What does it mean to be loving as a community and as individuals?
Paul is quite clear – as loving people, as a loving people, we’re called to be devoted, joyful, patient, sincere, faithful, prayerful, hospitable, generous. We must hate what’s evil and cling to what’s good. When we’re under attack from friend or foe, when the temptation is to strike back with a few choice words, we’re called to bless and not curse people – to their face and behind their backs too.
This is tough stuff, isn’t it. Part of the nature of community is that we rub up alongside each other, sometimes we rub each other up the wrong way! Sometimes we can be guilty of being careless in the way we speak to each other, and others of us are guilty of overreacting and seeking to bite back. I know I’ve been guilty of this. One time in particular, in my previous church, I was setting up my guitar for worship. It was 10 minutes before the service on the Sunday after Christmas. I’d been very busy and was pretty tired, ready for a break, but I’d been asked to play for the service. Someone, a significant member of the church community came in and said, “Oh no, not more inane strumming!” I was speechless and we had words. Suffice to say, it was not my finest hour. Though I was justified in being cross I wrote a letter to him a couple of days later to apologise for my own part in the row, but I did ask him to think before making those sorts of comments again – they can only do harm rather than good. It’s so important that we’re gracious to each other. For example, when people have clearly put a great deal of effort into organising events, etc I’m aware how easy it is when you think something’s not right to voice your opinion there and then. We all do this – many of us have a critical streak in them – but it’s not always very helpful. Advice I was given when thinking about giving feedback – immediately after something’s happened, only give positive feedback. If you have anything constructively critical to say, wait a few days and find a way to say something in a sensitive way.
Paul is clear that we should live in harmony with each other. This doesn’t mean avoiding conflict altogether – this is impossible in any community, but it does mean being willing to discuss things with people who may have hurt us. It certainly doesn’t mean talking about that person behind their back – however cross we feel! Let’s be honest when we make mistakes. Also, where necessary, be willing to say sorry – I find this really hard, because admitting when we’ve made mistakes involves swallowing quite a bit of pride. It also means being willing to forgive? St Paul writes, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (vv.23-24). We have found unconditional forgiveness and acceptance through the grace of God. We’re called to reflect that unconditional forgiveness and acceptance in our community. We’re called to share God’s love. Let’s pray that God would give us the grace and strength to live out this command, that all that we encounter across this community and beyond may know and experience that we’re a community committed to living out what it is to share God’s love.