Do you know what I’m talking about? The spaces of time where you feel like you are walking life out as the person you were created to be? The moments where you find yourself included in deep knitted fellowship so much so it feels like a taste of heaven? These prolonged realities can be recognized as experiencing a love that fills the room.
Call me an idealistic millennial but I think this is the kind of love worth living for. It’s the same love that raised Jesus from the dead and the same love that lives within each person that would call on the name of Christ.
But how do we cultivate such love? I look back at the sweet moments of intimate community within a Christian context over the last several years that I’ve experienced and have often wondered…what are the common themes in these different, dispersed communities that all seem to have the same “feel” to their environment?
Yet, as I take a look around I get the feeling that we are getting it all wrong. You and I have made church a marketplace of new techniques; all of a sudden the vernacular becomes ever so important in determining a brilliant, Christian community. The type of people and social standing seem to take precedence over the quality of an individual’s character and spiritual maturity. The style of worship becomes the ultimate decider in whether a community is “actually” following Jesus.
For some reason, you and I have made church about what happens inside the building, rather than what happens outside of it.
What if we started to make church…our community of believers…more about the context rather than the content? The Bible is pretty clear about the goal of community and what it looks like to follow Jesus in solidarity. We are given the picture of the trinity and their interaction with one another…the Epistles are full of directions and exhortations to dwell in unity and long suffering with one another.
The kind of love that fills the room isn’t cultivated by some worship song you think is anointed, the type of socially inept people in the room, or even by the number of similarly minded people. No, it’s cultivated by a love for Jesus rooted in surrender and obedience; it’s brought about by a commitment to carry your cross at whatever the cost. It’s the realization that we suffer in solidarity as a church because of our faith that the kind of love that fills the room comes bursting forth in our gatherings.
Friends this is our calling in the context of Christian community; every heart on earth, lost and saved, longs for the real Jesus. Each soul yearns to be with the loving God; what better way than to allow our communities to be such a transparent reflection of the love the Heavenly Father has for us? Let’s throw our social standing away, our cool gatherings, and our ideas that pale in comparison to the love of the Father.
There are a million ways to love people. But here are some thoughts: If you and I think of the one person we love and treasure with our utmost being, how do you love them? Most likely, it’s really easy to love them because it comes naturally. For me it’s my mom. I don’t have to think about what “techniques” I need to use to love my mom; I simply know that I want to do anything to love her well whether it looks like cleaning the house or including her in the process of my non-important and important decisions.
The issue and reality at hand, however, is that you and I don’t feel this “natural” love for anyone outside of an intimate few, at least I don’t. Interestingly enough, this is the love we are called to, agape sacrificial love. It’s the love that chooses to love a person unconditionally regardless of the circumstances; it’s the kind of love that fills the room and the love we are called to have for everyone on the Earth. Again, just an example, but if we apply this same level of sacrifice to the people God puts in front of us, imagine the amazing things that would happen.
When it comes to loving the person in front of us, especially within the context of Christian community, throw the manual out the freakin’ door. Find out what that person likes and how they like to be loved. DO those things, make an EFFORT to be with that person, and speak TRUTH into that person’s life. Love them as Christ would love them a.k.a. call out the man or woman they are created to be and let your actions be in effort to have them know more of who Christ is and more of who they are in Christ. Many people call this discipleship…I call it friendship.