Love by God, We Love One Another

On Wednesday, I wrote here at the blog about how important it is to know we are deeply loved by God as His children. What flows directly from that love of God for us as his people is that we are called to love one another as brothers and sisters. Throughout Scripture, the church is consistently referred to as being a family. One portion of Scripture that makes this connection between God’s love for us as His children and our call to love one another very clear is Ephesians 5, where Paul writes:

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2)

The church is a community loved by God, and because of that the church is also a community called to love one another. We are children of God and called to love one another as brothers and sisters. Another way to say all this is: Loved by God, we love one another.

This connects powerfully with us in our present moment. If there’s anything the past few years have shown us is that when hard times come, it is much easier to pull apart than to hold together. When the pressure is on, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to step forward in relationship and love with others. Yet, when hard times come, even when persecution may come, the church is still called to live in God’s love for us and our love for one another. We cannot disengage because we are a family established by God through Christ. 

Not only in this present moment, but in our ongoing cultural pressure, we also need to remember something very important about ourselves as the people of God. The church is not an event or a consumer activity. In our culture, we have been groomed to think of everything we do as something to consume. We consume by binging online shows. We consume by quickly scanning snippets of online articles without really reading them fully. We consume by scrolling through Instagram or TikTok, often mindlessly. We consume by throwing away or replacing items that could be used until they’re truly worn out or could be reused by others. We are a consumer culture. 

But the church is not one more consumer option among many. The church is not some place I go to figure out what I can get, but a family with whom I live to consider what I can bring…and what others can bring to me. It is a community of love. And you cannot buy love, even the Beatles knew that, and we cannot consume love, although people do try to do so in many ways. Love is forged within the time-bound, embodied connections, rooted in relationships of honesty, vulnerability, and experience. 

The church is called to live in God’s love for us personally and cultivate true love one with another. Small groups help with this because they are like support groups for living in love. They are like workout groups for muscles for loving that we don’t have yet. Small groups are like mini-schools of learning to live in God’s way of love. 

If the church is going to be a community of love, then we need to shed our consumerist mindsets and mannerisms when we think about existing as the family of love one with another.  Loved by God, we love one another.

The 30-Day Minimalism Challenge

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This past weekend as I preached a message at Eastbrook Church on “Sacrificial Generosity,” I spent quite a bit of time talking about simplicity.  I believe that simplicity is the twin brother of generosity. Paul the Apostle writes:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. (1 Timothy 6:6-8)

Contentment is something I struggle with greatly. I believe it is a difficult trait to develop in our lives, particularly when we live in a culture bent on acquisition and consumerism. We consume music, movies, food, books, clothes, and more.

Simplicity is a key to attaining contentment, and it is a key to developing generosity in our lives as well. In Philippians, the letter known as “the epistle of joy,” Paul writes while imprisoned about contentment:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  (Philippians 4:11-12)

In the month of August, my wife, Kelly, and I participated in something called the 30-day minimalism game. It was an opportunity to simplify our lives and get rid of the clutter of stuff that happens to all of us. Every day of the month we would get rid of different things. On the first day we each got rid of one thing each. On the second day we each got rid of two things. On third day, three things. We did this all the way to the end of the month. We gave things away to others, dropped things at Goodwill, sold stuff online, and more. By the end of August we had both shed nearly 500 items.

Now, here is what was amazing: our life was not that different afterwards. We have more than we need. But this 30-day minimalism challenge taught me some important things:

  • I don’t need a lot of the stuff I think I need.
  • It’s hard not to want more stuff.
  • I don’t become more happy by having more stuff.
  • Contentment is sometimes easier when you have less, not more.

Generosity requires us to engage with simplicity in one way or another. Simplicity helps us learn that contentment is more about something inside us than something outside us. Simplicity helps us escape from letting our stuff own our lives. And in that place, it prepares us for generosity.