Roger Severino

The Persuasive Power of a Loving Christian Community

In 1 John 2:7-11, the author seems to be reminding his readers of Jesus’ command to love one another and that “by this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (see John 13:34-35). In fact, the 1 John passage puts it bluntly: the one who loves his brother remains in the light, but the one who hates his brother is in darkness.

What is love?

We live in a world where Fifty Shades of Grey premiers on Valentine’s Day to record audiences, giving our culture a very distorted idea of love. Our world often equates love with eros (sexual love) rather than the agape love of the Bible. There is nothing wrong with sexual love in the appropriate marital context, but eros usually gets distorted in our world, seen by the brokenness of sex trafficking, child pornography, abuse, and the multiple heartaches of unhappy consequences. What if the church offered a healthy counter-cultural example of biblical love that sought out God’s best for the other? What if we gave a compelling witness to a love that is not self-seeking but sacrificial on behalf of others?

 

How is a loving community compelling to others?

We all have stories of fellow Christians who have been mean-spirited to one another and sought to tear the other one down. I have also been around certain Christians that seem to care for each other and love one another, but there love felt insular. What I mean is the type of love I observed stayed inside the group and almost formed a barrier to those around them. On the other hand, I have been around believers whose love was beyond themselves, who constantly looked outward to include and embrace others outside the group so they could experience God’s love. This latter type of love is one I think the world will find compelling. Jesus tells us that even ungodly or irreligious people love their own (see Matthew 5:46-47). I believe Jesus calls for a type of love that is so powerful that it cannot be contained within the group, but spills outwardly and invites others in.

 

What should be our attitude towards the World?

It all depends on how you use the term “world.” 1 John 2:15-17 instruct us not to love the world or the things of the world. But here the term “world” connotes the fallen world in rebellion to God, characterized by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and prideful arrogance. John 3:16, however, tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…” God is committed to redeeming a sinful and rebellious people and at great cost demonstrated sacrificial love to the undeserving. He took the first step. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). As followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another deeply as a witness to the world; but we are also called to love the people of the world as God does. We earn the right to be heard, when we love. Unconditionally. Sacrificially.

 

What if this is the Scorecard?

Jesus had the audacity to say that the world will have the right to judge whether we belong to Him by the type of love we have for one another. Yes, we are called to love our enemies. Yes, we are called to love those outside the faith (whether friend, family, or foe). But…the church is a microcosm to demonstrate what 1 Corinthians 13-type of love looks like in real life. What contributions are you making to create a radical community of Christ followers that love one another selflessly and sacrificially? What changes do you need to make to improve your contribution? Is the world watching? Yes they are. Every day.

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