community

The Radical Inclusiveness of Jesus

By: Mike Newkirk

Recently, in an adult Sunday class at our church, Tim Philips was leading a teaching series on Worship in which he asked the question “Why does the New Testament talk so much about loving one another?” In the context of the discussion, we were looking at Paul writing in Romans 12:9-11 in particular:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.”

Immediately, my mind went to the Jesus saying in John 13:34:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This was a big deal at the time. Think of the original audience, tribalistic, mainly Jewish (12 tribes there) and they have been called out to be separate from the cultures around them by Yahweh. How dissonant Jesus’ saying must have sounded to them!

But what about the law as elucidated in Leviticus 19:18b?

“..you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”

It is clear that this was a new commandment as recorded by John. A radically new commandment.

Jesus extended the Leviticus passage in two significant ways.

1.       Jesus modified “love your neighbor” to “love one another”.  Who was he speaking to? All those who are His followers. Regardless of their tribes and tongues, we are to love each other who claim Jesus as who he claimed to be. It’s no longer your tribe, your clan but all people, in all places, in all times. In their mind, my neighbor is my tribe, namely, other Jews. Thus, he is saying the New Covenant community is radically inclusive. No longer are we talking about neighbors as our kinsmen or clans, but all who believe in Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, as God incarnate. In our modern context you can’t get any more inclusive than this. All are welcome and invited.

2.       Jesus modified from loving “your neighbor as yourself” to “love as I have loved you”. The standard of love has been adjusted from how we love of ourselves to how Jesus has loved us.  Given that Jesus has just washed the disciples’ feet and that this foot washing points to his death the implication is that we are willing to lay down our lives for one another in the family of God.

Thus, Jesus’ marching orders to his disciples on the night before he gives his life for them calls them to imitate his sacrificial love and to love each other across national, cultural and racial boundaries to the point of laying down their lives for one another.  In this sense, He was calling for a profound change in their thinking that should be seen as a most radical shift in culture in their day and especially, even now in our day. The defining characteristic of our Christian witness, of our following Jesus, would be our love for each other. Jesus states this unequivocally in verse 35 immediately following:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As a brief aside, we should note that the call to love one another as followers of Jesus does not harm any of Jesus’ teaching that calls his disciples to love those who are not committed to following him.  Jesus calls his followers to love our enemies even as the Father actively loves his own enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).  This teaching has a different focus and purpose.  It’s not that we are to love those who don’t follow Jesus less, it’s that there is a call within the Christian community to love one another more. 

Our love for one another in the community of Jesus followers is paramount for our witness to this world. What would it say to a watching world if those who claim to love Jesus didn’t love and care for one another.  Consider then also what it says to those outside the church when they see inside the church a deep and abiding sacrificial love for one another across racial, cultural, and national boundaries. My prayer is that Redeemer Raleigh would be a place that radically loves. That we are willing to extend ourselves and push our comfort zones to extend the radical love of Jesus to one another. This is a worthy goal. A goal that our King has set for us. And that makes all the difference, because he loves us and prays for us constantly.

 

Loneliness, the Movie Solo, Motherhood, and Community Groups

By: Dan Seale

How are loneliness, the movie Solo, motherhood and community groups connected?

Before I make that connection, let me ask you…

Do you ever feel lonely? 

When do you feel lonely? 

Why do you feel lonely?

Surprisingly to me, I can sometimes feel lonely in crowds, or in busy seasons of life.  It seems to pop up at unexpected times.  It’s important to distinguish between loneliness and aloneness. They sometimes overlap but they are not the same thing.   Even though I am blessed with good friends, a close family, and a great church family, I still have times of loneliness. 

 

In Finding God in my Loneliness, Lydia Brownback writes,

Loneliness is an indicator that something is missing, and that something is found only in Jesus Christ…Loneliness is everywhere, but we don’t talk about it too often. Perhaps that’s because we’ve grown accustomed to its oppressive weight that we’ve lost awareness of it altogether.

This summer Sean Scott blogged about loneliness and linked to a very helpful article about this topic. (Read it here)

However, I want us to keep talking about this topic because I think it is a great entry way into talking Gospel conversations with one another and with those who do not yet know and follow Jesus.  Loneliness is all around us. Something seems off for people, and underneath all the possible solutions is the need to recognize that our loneliness is calling us to God and that God redeems our loneliness.   Pick up Finding God in my Loneliness if you want to see how God speaks into various causes/circumstances of loneliness.

Now what’s the connection between loneliness, Solo, motherhood and community groups?

Loneliness is a growing destructive epidemic and provides a great opportunity for us to direct ourselves and others to God who came near to us in Jesus.

 

Pastor Sam Allberry writes about how the movie Solo reveals that the answer to our aloneness is not necessarily romantic partnerships but deep friendship.  Chewie was in Han’s life far longer than Leia.  The movie shows the beauty of friendship. Read his thoughts here.

 

Melissa Kreuger writes about the loneliness of motherhood, the beauty of friendship and the goodness of God in this article.  This shows how friendship can help us connect to God and one another more intimately.

 

Lastly, community groups provide a set time and space in your schedule to share life with other people.  We need to make space to find and build the kind of friendships that help us enjoy and pursue God.  If you are feeling disconnected or lonely, consider getting involved as we relaunch community groups in October.

 

God and the gift of friendship, with him and with others, are the medicine to our bouts of loneliness.  Fight to push towards God and believe and act on what is true. If you are His, you are never alone.

How Important is Community?

By: Brad Rogers

Just how important is community? As our church is preparing to relaunch our community group ministry on Oct. 7th, this is a question I find myself asking as we seek to build these smaller communities within the larger body of the church as a whole. We are not aiming for just any kind of community, but we want our community groups to help us know and follow Christ. How do you create such a community? In the linked article, Aaron Menikoff challenges readers about how community is actually formed. His thoughts on the relative importance of community as well as his practical personal hints for “when community falters” in our churches will be a corrective for some and a helpful encouragement for others. You can read the article here.

The Community of Jesus

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
— Proverbs 18:1

By: Brad Rogers

As a pastor, I have noticed that whenever people become isolated, trouble usually follows.  In my own life, some of my greatest times of growth have come when others were courageously, thoughtfully and gracefully willing to show me where the reality of my life did not line up with the life Jesus called me to live.  As much as I would like to avoid such conversations, God has used them to help me become more like Jesus.  Sometimes though, I just to hide from others and do my own thing, pursue my own desires.  When I do, I am prone to think that I am only hurting myself.  In this short article, Tim Challies shows how that is just not the case.  As you read it, I invite you to think about your involvement in the community of Christ as it relates to your own growth as well as the growth of others.

Read the article here