Living by God's design

Study 4: A loving community

Pop groups sing about it, soap operas spend years working it out, Rom Com’s pack the cinema seats and it’s the vital spark at the heart of chick lit. Like it or not, there’s no escaping our society’s obsession with love.
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The trouble with obsessions is that it is all too easy to lose sight of the real deal when you’re bombarded with visions of the ideal. Aspiring to the kind of relationships enjoyed by the rich, the famous or the wealthy will only result in disaster when reality bites.  The less-than-happy times are airbrushed from the media but they remain only too painful for those experiencing them at first hand.

The net result is that our responses are torn between a culturally created and unattainable “god” on the one hand and a trivialised and superficial approach to relationships on the other.

Liberation comes when we take a biblical view of love putting “love” in it’s fullest sense and greatest expression, back where it belongs as a gift of God.

God bestows His blessings without discrimination. The followers of Jesus are children of God, and they should manifest the family likeness by doing good to all, even to those who deserve the opposite. (F F Bruce)

Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren't rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice. (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law (Romans 12:8)

Pause for thought

  1. Think of some recent films, songs or books which focus on “love.” What message did they portray?
  2. How do we work out who we will love?
  3. What elements of a biblical definition of “love” can you see in the 3 quotes printed above? How do these differ from those listed in your answer to question 1?

Chapters 13 – 17 of John’s gospel are the longest and most detailed account in the bible of Jesus’ last night with his disciples in the upper room. This account of Jesus’ last teaching session has a strong emphasis on the practical aspects of love, both human and divine. [There are 31 references to “love” in these 5 chapters but only 6 mentions in the previous 12].

At the heart of Christ’s sacrifice is love. This love is not self love but the direct opposite: He demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners he died for us (Romans 5:8). Confronted by this powerful love, which all believers acknowledge personally, the bible reminds us that our own life and attitude should be modelled on that of Jesus (Philippians 2 verses 5 to 13).

Love and Humility (John 13: 1 - 17)

  1. Please read John 13 verses 1 to 17. What does verse 1 tell us about Jesus’ love for others?
  2. How is this reflected in Jesus’ actions towards his friends?
  3. What actions and attitudes in GHBC show our love for each other? [And what do not!]
  4. How can we become more like Jesus in this part of our lives?
  5. How would you explain God’s love to someone who felt that they were so bad that God couldn’t possibly love or even care about them?
  6. What do vv. 12 – 17 teach us about humility and practical love?

Jesus taught (John 13: 34 – 35) that the command to love God – "love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4 – 6) - is united with the challenge in Leviticus 19:18 to “ …love your neighbour as yourself."  This love is very different from the love we normally experience and speak about. Christian love is not simply an emotion but is a relationship of self-giving which results from following Christ’s example. The source of Christian love is God (Romans 5:8), with faith making it possible for us to love in the same way (Romans 5:5).

Love in Action (John 13 & 14)

  1. Please read John 13: 34 – 35. What or who defines the way we should love one another?
  2. Why is it so important for the church to take such a stand on love? (vv. 3)
  3. Please read John 14: 15 – 24. What does Jesus promise for those who “trust and obey”? (verse 15 onwards)
  4. How does this give us confidence for our mission and ministry?
  5. How should this move us in reaching out to friends, neighbours, family and workmates who are, as yet, uncommitted to Christ Jesus?

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