Believers are a congregation of God’s people. They come from many places and many cultures. If it were not for the work of God’s Spirit, many believers would not seek each other out for company.
But now, in that Spirit, we have been gathered together, and these people have become your people. Your tribe. What are we supposed to do with each other?
The answer is simple, and at times, difficult for us to digest.
Get to know your people. Look around. Love the people God has put within your congregation.
Don’t be tempted to love one another in some abstract kind of ‘group-hug’ way. Love the people you are sitting with each Sunday. Love the person pouring your coffee, cutting your cake, sitting behind you – in particular.
God calls us to love one another, in particular. And this is what makes love difficult.
Loving people, in general, doesn’t get under our skin in any significant way. Loving one another in the abstract doesn’t have a squeaky chair. Love, in general, doesn’t rub his runny nose while cutting you a piece of apple pie.
But loving each other, in particular, is a real challenge. And that’s also what makes it such a blast.
Think of it as the God’s hedge maze, designed to get you into better spiritual shape.
“Here,” He says, “love that.” and the Spirit is sovereign, and it is amazing what He can do.
Not only does God grant you the grace to deal with other people more graciously, but He also gives other people the grace to deal with you. Rejoicing in this second point, incidentally, is a more excellent gift of grace than the first.
This love is not subject to the rise and fall of our emotions, or our personal tastes. Our affections are one thing – and a wonderful thing, but love is judicial. It covers sins and is grounded in the justice of God in forgiving us our sins.
This is the love that serves others and looks out for others. It is a love that sets people at ease and makes them smile.
We love one another, in particular, by feeding and serving one another, in particular. And we are motivated by the love that Jesus has shown us.
Above all, love one another deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining. As good stewards of the manifold grace of God, each of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve one another. (1 Peter 4:8-10)
This is what makes fellowship and community possible.
Love declares what God has declared. Namely, that this living soul is now a brother or sister. They have been redeemed, blood-bought and washed clean.
Love does not call us to come together as a vague blob of people with emotional ties. It calls us by name (Isaiah 43:1).
It calls us in particular. And it calls us to love God and to love one another in particular with a love that is grounded in the unchanging grace and justice of God who first loved us.