Lately God has really challenged me to look at how I love Him, specifically what the outpouring of that love looks like. Through that I found myself kind of lost on how I actually show God my love. God's question was completely rhetorical and He eventually showed me that we are to show our love for Him by pouring it out on His people. Essentially, if we love God, we'll love the ones He loves (basically that's everyone else). He clarified through a number of ways (my devotional time, my youngest son) and I was able to flesh that out in a few previous posts. (My Son the Teacher & You Feed Them)
After clarifying the loving Him part, God started moving me toward what it means to love well and what forum is required for real, genuine love to exist. At theSHIFT we have a set of core values that revolve around four "Cs". They are Connection, Community, Challenge and Christ (my friend Thomas [BLOG love] has a great article on this if he'd ever post it). With that said I knew that community was important, but God began to show me just how important it is to this love relationship is. The idea is that when you connect people to each other and Christ, they begin to develop community with each other and Christ. Within community is where love, fellowship, accountability, worship, sacrifice and service to others occur. When that happens, Christ begins to challenge you to a place where you want to connect more people with Him. Then the cycle continues.
So, this post is meant to talk about community (there will probably be a few of them). I think the first thing that is important to get about community is that it's not just a place to hang out. Gospel community is a place where people that love each other, live openly with each other. They are honest and transparent within their community. They care about decisions others make and offer wise council and accountability. They gently, lovingly and firmly call each other out when one is engaged in sinful behavior. They worship, pray and fellowship together. They provide for each other generously and without grumbling. They don't backbite or seek to hurt others.
The key to community is love. Love is the foundation for everything. Christ identified two commandments in Luke 10:27, "You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind. And, Love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus reiterated the need for love within community in John 13:34-35, which reads, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." If you want to really know what community is supposed to look like, read 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, that's love and that's community. The New Testament is filled with places that the Apostles tell various churches what it means to live in community with each other and all of them say to love each other. In Galatians 5:14-15 Paul says, “The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” In 1 Peter 3:8 Peter says, “Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” And in 1 John 2:10, John says, “Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.”
The point is this: Love is what community is built on. If anyone says they are a part of a community and does not display the action of love, they are a liar and are only there to under mind what Christ is building. Once community is developed and love flows outward from it, everything else comes naturally; accountability, servant-hood, fellowship, worship, and sacrifice.
The last thing I'll say about love within community is this: the love within community should also draw and invite others in. The lost, unloved, unloveable and hurting should be attracted to community as a place where they will be accepted and loved. If people from the outside see your “community” and see jealousy, back-biting, gossip, selfishness, distrust and bitterness, they're gone. They won't come near you. That isn't community, that's the same thing that others, in the world, are trying to escape from. People should be able to find refuge, not refuse, in Christ's church.