Here’s a reality check. You can’t love on your own. Any attempt to love on your own isn’t an expression of love but of its opposite: self-centredness. To love, you need community. As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”
This has nothing to do with whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Both introverts and extroverts can experience and receive love, and be kind to others.
The idea of “community” is challenging in our contemporary societies because the more disconnected we become from each other, the more we talk about “creating community.” The more connected it seems that we are with each other, the more disconnected we are in reality.
Next time you are in a park or a restaurant, look around you and look at how many people have their heads down in their phones. Consider even what happens within the four walls of your own home!
While I believe that it is possible to have healthy online communities, they cannot be a substitute for real community at the end of the day. We know that most communication is non-verbal. Genuine communication can’t happen when typing with one finger on a mobile phone.
The basis of every good relationship is grounded in the very nature of God himself.
Genuine relationships mean seeing another’s smile break out as you speak with them. It means spending uninterrupted time with another. It means going through a broad spectrum of life activities with another. Real relationships require being with another person in the fulness of the meaning of that word.
The basis of every good relationship is grounded in the very nature of God himself. From the first moment God introduces himself in the pages of Scripture, he introduces himself as the one, sole God in plurality, through the name Elohim, plural in form. To translate it literally, it is “Gods.”
The consistent concept taught throughout Scripture is that the very essence of God is relational and communal in nature. This is the doctrine of the Godhead, and this very nature of God underpins every other doctrine in the Bible, including what it teaches us about the church.
God could not be love (1 John 4:16) if he didn’t exist in the divine community of the Godhead because love can only truly exist in plurality.
The doctrine of the Godhead also underpins the doctrine of the church. In his great prayer in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for his disciples and said,
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:20–23.)
Jesus invites you into the “oneness” that exists between the members of the Godhead.
Just think for a moment of what Jesus is saying here. Think about the perfect, unbroken relationship of love that has existed between the Father and Son since eternity. Jesus is saying that this is precisely the same relationship that he wants to have with us. But even more than that, how does he say that this is achieved? It is by bringing you into the “oneness” of the same relationship that exists between the members of the Godhead. Did you get that? If you did, your head should be spinning by now!
It is not we who love God. He loves us first (1 John 4:19) and brings us into his own love. Whatever we may call love that proceeds from ourselves is always broken and flawed. Genuine and original love always comes from God alone.
We were created for the community. Not only that but you were made for the most incredible community of all: an eternal community of love!
You will never be the best version of yourself apart from the community.
Think about it. You will never be the best version of yourself apart from community. And, apart from community, your life and your mind will spiral downwards. That’s why we encourage those who have mental illness to reach out to others.
Community on earth is always challenging and flawed. But only in that kind of broken community can we truly learn what it means to love selflessly and sacrificially. This kind of love builds up the other (1 Cor. 8:1) and does not tear them down. (Please note that I am not referring to submitting to harm in abusive relationships.)
We can only learn to love in broken relationships when our love is sourced from the unbroken love of God. For all of these reasons, God encourages us to,
not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another… (Heb 10:25.)
Church community is one kind of community, but there are many others. For most of us, our family is our closest community. The truth is that many family relationships are entirely broken, about which we often dare not speak.
My question to you is: Are you bringing healing to your communities, or are you perpetuating the divisions and brokenness that is in the world?
Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.
About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question.
Feature image: Photo by Erika Giraud on Unsplash