Sam Ward, our Director of Ministry, shares the next of our Lent reflects on intersection of the self and community.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.‘ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
A thin layer of bricks has separated us from a whole host of wild and wonderful neighbours across the years of our Eden adventure. Life in a terrace house means you live up close and personal with ‘them next door’.
Our lives become unavoidably entwined as the sounds and smells of everyday life overflow the boundaries of our very limited personal space. I remember once a neighbour thumbing the wall in protest, demanding that I pee more quietly, something I am yet to master. We endured many sleepless nights at the mercy of one neighbour who would fall into a marijuana induced slumber to the sound of Bob Marley on repeat and at full volume.
At times I have craved the isolation of a hilltop log cabin or the privacy of a detached house with a perimeter fence just tall enough for no one to see over. Yet any more than four days away from my community and I begin to get withdrawal symptoms. I am made to be with others, I don’t work well on my own. Yet our society says that individualism is the ideal and that independence is of prime importance. We are lead to believe that self-sufficiency is the image of success and autonomy is profoundly awesome. We are encouraged to take care of number one and to love ourselves at the expense of others. All the while we are created in the image of a triune God, a God in community who exists as three in one and who declares over mankind ‘It is not good to be alone’.
We are created for loving relationships. This is why the great commandments of Christ to love God and neighbour are inseparable. Our love for God is visceral, we love with all we have and with every part of us. By very nature that leaves us with nothing with which to love ourselves and our neighbours. To love God with all we have is to die to self. When we sacrificially adore God a beauty divine exchange takes place. As we empty ourselves of love towards God we are infilled with love from God. His love ensures we love ourselves well and love our neighbours in equal measure.
Lord Jesus thank you that you call us to live in community, please reveal to me more of what this means for my life and where I need to put my own hopes and desires aside so that I can pour your love out to those around me.