I imagine when Jesus called His followers to be with one another and love one another, He had already foreseen all the painful conflicts that will follow. But He still thought it was worth it, and that it’s beautiful when we become one in our differences.
When we say that believers are all one in Christ, it does not necessarily mean that we are identical, but that we all share the same purpose of imitating and following Jesus. So how can we be on this journey with one another and in the context of community? Here are three practical tips.
1. Share a table
Jesus often ate with people. Having a group of disciples following Him means He would rarely have a meal on His own. He ate not only with the same group, but also with tax collectors (Mark 2.15) and Pharisees (Luke 7.36). He shared one of his most personal and precious moments at a supper. He made breakfast for the disciples before He ascended into heaven.
Community is more than a teaching or discussion group; it is a life-to-life experience. It could mean setting aside time on the calendar, finding a restaurant, and sharing a meal with someone who you might not know well.
Community is more than a teaching or discussion group; it is a life-to-life experience.
Or it could mean inviting your small group over to your place for dinner. After all, we are called to practice hospitality (Romans 12.13) (*brownie points if you make a full meal, or at least brew coffee for your guests), to find ways to cultivate an environment for conversations about Jesus! Good news is even better with a good meal.
2. Value stories over opinions
At one point, we are all guilty of saying “all _____ people are like _______ or do ______.” We are prone to form caricatures of a person or a group because understanding one’s background with all its complexities is not easy. It takes patience to listen to a person’s story (we’ve all been there – struggling to focus when a relative or grandparent shares their story).
Stories humble us as we see how a person’s experiences, relationships, and hurts shape their perspectives.
In a fellowship, listening to the stories of those with whom we may quarrel shows us that they are not simply a source of disagreement, but uniquely-created reflections of God. When we give space for story-sharing, it helps us to recognize people’s sacredness, and it deepens our enjoyment and appreciation of Christ’s beloved community.
When we give space for story-sharing, it helps us to recognize people’s sacredness, and it deepens our enjoyment and appreciation of Christ’s beloved community.
3. Be good students of Scripture
So, read your Bible? Yes, but there’s more! A careful and humble attitude to Bible-reading is crucial to our imagining of a Jesus-like community. Our vision of an ideal community has blind spots and comes with our own cultural baggage.
Instead of projecting our understanding of loving our neighbor as ourselves onto the Bible, let the Bible teach us how to love. It is a good idea to dig into how the term “one another” is used in the Bible when we all strive for loving one another more deeply.
Instead of projecting our understanding of loving our neighbor as ourselves onto the Bible, let the Bible teach us how to love.
There are successes and failures in the communities in Acts that challenge us to form a culture that is aligned with the Kingdom of God. There are visions in Revelation that inspire us to reach out and welcome people of every nation, tribe, and language into the family of Christ.
And don’t be a student of Scripture by yourself; read it, talk about it, and wrestle with it with one another. As a community, we can celebrate and examine the way we love in light of Scripture.