Deep in the heart of every person is a desire for connection. I’ve felt it often and I’m sure you have too. Some of us may have found it, others of us may have inwardly rejected it because of past pain and some of us are still longing for it. I think all of us would agree that community can be hard, but it can also be very beautiful. I’ve heard it said that what has been broken in community can best be healed in community and my experience tells me this is true. God often will not heal us completely without the face of another.
The truth is, we need each other’s eyes of compassion, hands of helping, voice of truth, and heart of love. God desires this both from us and for us. We are meant to be administers of God’s presence (or glory) to one another. Isn’t that amazing?! We need one another and the desire for community is God-given.
In Life in the Trinity, Donald Fairbairn refers to John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” He brings to light that Christians are the branches which means we are the ‘most visible producers in the grape-growing operation. God’s glory is another way to speak about His presence. “One of the ways God shows His presence on earth is through the love we show one another and the fruit that we bear.”
The only way this will happen is if we remain in Him as John 15:1 says, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” Divine love and connection is at the very heart of creation and what we were created for. We were created for community by the Trinitarian God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has invited us into this love and made it possible to live in this love again through the Cross.
So often we seek the connection we crave through artificial means or without God (although we may not admit it), but the true and deep connection we so deeply long for can only be found in a healthy Christian community. I think this is why when a church community is unhealthy at best or harmful at worst, it is deeply painful. We instinctively know it is not supposed to be this way.
How can we become the kind of community that is truly loving, self-sacrificial, life-giving and beautiful? When the Christian community can grab hold of the beauty and wonder of life with God together; healing, restoration and beauty will emerge.
When we don’t center ourselves in God’s love and acceptance for us, it is impossible for us to love as He loved. We can only love well if we have experienced His deep love for us and continue to live from that truth. We must abide. We get to abide! God has invited us to abide in His perfect love. Is there any more beautiful place to live our lives from?
We all live our lives from somewhere and if we are not abiding in Him, we will always be looking for others to meet our deep needs and asking them to mirror our worth back to us. We will only be able to love them well as long as they are able to give us what we need. If we are looking to find our worth through them, we will become easily offended, self-protective, unwilling to be vulnerable and unable to love them selflessly. The more we live like this, the more confining our lives become and the less relationship with others we will be able to have. We will be self-protective and self-serving even though we are trying hard not to be. Oftentimes we won’t even see it!. This is how we cause pain for one another.
Jesus could love so well because His identity was in the Father. He wasn’t looking to others to define who He was or to give Him what they could not. John 13:34 says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” God is not simply asking us to love one another on our own like He has loved us, but is asking us to be a branch.
When we abide in Him, HIS love is able to flow through us. This is a lot different than our feeble attempts to love well. Abiding in Him is the only way to experience the beauty of community we were created for. He is asking us to stay connected to His love and as we do that, we will be enabled to love well with His actual love flowing through us.
In Life in the Trinity, Donald Fairbairn says,
“Now remain in my love.” (John 15:9) “We are to remain in the very same love with which Christ has loved us, which is in fact the very same love with which the Father has loved Christ. Somehow we are called to do more than simply imitate God’s love. We are called to remain in and to carry forward to the world the very love with which the Father has loved his Son from all eternity. The loving relationship between Father and Son, the glorious presence of he Father with the Son, is not simply a model that we are to follow. That relationship is the substance of what Jesus says Christians are to possess. Christ is not simply giving us an example; he is offering himself to us as a person, that we might share in his most deeply personal relationship, the relationship he has with God the Father.”
Let’s keep abiding and see what beauty will emerge!