Christian Community

We should be doing all we can now to get to know our fellow believers and how we can meet their needs. This is the essence of 1 John 3:11-18 wherein John lists the love for the brethren as one of the defining marks of the Christian. The love John commends is costly, where we must be willing even to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ. But if dying for a fellow Christian seems a bit unrealistic in this comfortable society of ours, consider how John himself describes this love (vv. 17-18): “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Which of us, in this materialistic society, is willing to give away our goods to a brother in need? It is a question we should be asking daily, and it is an action we ought to be seeking actively to fulfill. If we were more committed to the people of God, the world would see our love and more people would know that we are the disciples Christ, perhaps making them jealous for that same love (John 13:34). May we all strive towards that love for God’s people that the Lord demands of us.

How should we interact with our community?

With Our Neighbors

In Luke 10, a lawyer questions Jesus about eternal life, and Jesus replies, “What is written in the law?” (v. 26). The man replies, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart … and your neighbor as yourself” (v. 27). He answers correctly, but he seeks to justify himself because he has a more restricted view of neighbor than Jesus does.

Like the lawyer, we tend to think that our neighbors are the ones closest to us, whether in terms of neighborhood, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, generational identity, social class, etc. While it’s not inherently wrong to love those who are similar to ourselves, it’s quite sinful to withhold love from others because they are different.

To illustrate this point, Jesus tells the story of a samaritan—a man from a group of people despised by the lawyer—who shows compassion on a man who was robbed, beaten, left for dead, and overlooked by individuals expected to provide relief. The story concludes with the lawyer’s recognition of who proved to be a neighbor and Jesus’ instruction: “Go and do likewise” (v. 37).

Jesus is the consummate neighbor who rescues people of all kinds. Having been recipients of this love, we as believers are to love our neighbors of all kinds. Sound doctrine will not let us ignore them.

With Our Enemies

Loving family and even neighbors is quite understandable, but enemies present a different challenge. Most often, these are people who have a hostile attitude toward us or who have hurt us in some way. It seems appropriate to hate them, but Jesus says to “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” (Matt. 5:43). It’s not easy to wish those well who wish the worst for you, but it follows the pattern of our heavenly Father who sent His Son to die for His enemies.

The only way to truly love our enemies is to start with the gospel. We were once enemies of God and hostile to Him (Eph. 2). We deserved death for our sins, but “God shows his love for us in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This is a love beyond our natural comprehension. If we understand what God did for us when we were enemies, then it makes supernatural sense that we, too, must love our enemies. Doctrine moves us to love people in every facet of our community.