How we can love one another
Christians are called to reflect God’s abundant love for His people. Before the pandemic, I assume you (like me) were doing this in some capacity, serving each other and enjoying fellowship in person. But we have been forced, for better or worse, to communicate with each other more via Zoom, phone calls or social media. How can we truly love each other as Jesus does for His church, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19? How can we break our isolated lives after being socially distant for so long?
Let’s be clear, Christians are called to love each other radically and sacrificially. We love God and our neighbour in the power of the Spirit as Jesus teaches in scripture. John stresses the importance of love so strongly that he says we are murderers if we hate a brother or sister, and we will not inherit eternal life (1 John 3:15). Powerful stuff! Yet, the good news is that our love for each other does not come through gritted teeth. It comes from the gospel radically transforming our disobedient and deceitful hearts; we know that even while we still were rebels against God, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:6). Since God loved us so much to give His only Son, we love one another as we live for Him.
But we return to our earlier question: How can we love each other now? We first need to enjoy being with each other again in person. Let’s be honest; it is hard. I am naturally an extrovert, but even I’ll admit, along with introverts, that being online has significant advantages. On Zoom, we can remember people’s names because they’re in the corner of each person’s screen. You can dial into a conversation wherever you live in the country. You can end discussions with the click of a button. But being in person means you can hug, visibly show emotions and comfort one another. You can play games, pray with each other and sing together without technological difficulties!
We also need to remember the sacrificial love found in the church. We are part of God’s extensive family. Families work best where everyone chips in and works together as a functioning body. We must resist falling into the trap of thinking church is a spiritual top-up service to make us feel good. We don’t attend church to be religious; we come together to be fed from God’s Word and live it out in love by serving each other.
But, how can I think of others’ needs when I’m busy? I’m barely hanging on myself! I would say in response Jesus was never too busy for anyone, whether that be little children, a Samaritan woman or any non-Jew. The only reason that Jesus withdrew from people was to spend time with His Father. If we want to become more like Christ, we need to model His kind of love. It may mean re-evaluating the importance of things in our life. What can we cut out to make space to serve others? As an example, I purposefully keep my Tuesday evenings free to invite church family members to my house during the week. Even when we’re struggling, God desires us to serve and be as selfless as our Saviour was for us.
I realise we need to be careful and prayerful in this. We shouldn’t help others out because of a ‘saviour complex’, or to feed our pride or tendency to please people. We are part of a church family for a reason; others can help. We are to bear each other’s burdens. But we should be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters; otherwise, how can the love of God be in our hearts (1 John 3:17)?
So here are my humble suggestions, as small steps, to put this into practice. As John writes: “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Instead of just promising to pray for someone, write the prayer request down and commit to pray for one week before speaking to the same person again the following Sunday. Organise a coffee trip with two or three people and get out your diaries to make it happen. Ask your pastor or minister who in the church is currently in need. Don’t simply sign yourself up to a rota, but be intentional about practically caring for others.
Thinking on a larger scale, grab a couple of people for a games evening or BBQ social. Invite people around to your house for food after a Sunday service; and it doesn’t need to be fancy! I’ve asked friends before to act as my sous-chef when people have come around to mine. Some in TFT have a biological family, so purposely organise your calendar so that hospitality becomes part of your routine. You may think hospitality is not your gifting, but it is something we are all called to do as faithful believers (Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:12). Show this love to those who are different from you and those who might give you nothing back.
One family from my church invites anyone to their house for lunch each week, and it is a great witness to me of their care for outsiders. Whatever God has gifted us with materially, we can use it to love others, for it is Jesus we serve. For you introverts out there, you might demonstrate your love to others by lending out your car, dropping a meal round or sending a thoughtful message.
When we care for each other, especially those in the church who live alone, it shows that we care for each other much more than ourselves. We put our money where our mouth is, and people desperately want to see authentic love shown.
My hope and prayer is that I’ve given you some thoughts as to how you can do this too. So will you take up this opportunity to serve and care for others? Will you love others just as Christ loves you and His church?
This article was originally published in the autumn 2021 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the autumn 2021 edition of Ascend