In our series on the five ways of loving God, we’re looking at how we connect with God through relationships. When the Church started at Pentecost, thousands were baptized and the immediately developed a new kind of community. Everyone had everything in common, they shared their stuff, and dedicated themselves to the Apostles’ teachings, the Lord’s Supper as a meal together, and to prayer. Luke paints a picture of what the church is supposed to look like in Acts 2:42-47. The rest of the New Testament letters are more or less written to help these new communities figure out how to have relationships together.
The church is the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, the Family of God, the Kingdom of God. I am not the church. We are the church. I am not the Body. We are the Body. I am not the Bride. We are the Bride. Can I fully be a Christian and refuse to be part of a community of believers? The church is the place where we experiment with what it means to live out the two greatest commands to Love God and Love Neighbor. If we cannot learn to love one another in the church, how then will we ever learn to love our neighbors?
In preparation for this Sunday, read all of First John and focus on what John says about our love for each other. Our sermon text will be 1 John 4:7-21 but take some time to read all of First John to get a feel for his overall message about love. What does it mean for God to be love? What is God’s love like? When I look back to the Old Testament and the covenant God made with Israel, I see God’s love. When we think of covenants between people, we think of them as a two-way commitment. If one breaks their end of the covenant, we assume the other is then released from their end. What we see in God’s relationship with Israel, and the world, is a God of love who refuses to give up on the covenant. Israel breaks their end of the covenant over and over and over again, but God stays faithful to them. God does send correctives so that they will come back to covenant with him, but he never gives up on the covenant. This is fully realized in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.
If we are to have the love of God for one another, at what point are we able to break covenant with one another? How quickly do people change churches because something happened they didn’t like? How quickly do we break relationships when we disagree in discussions? The question really becomes, do we really see ourselves in a relationship that is infused with the love of God? How would that change our community if we loved one another with the same love that God has for us?