Love is community, faith team sport

Hannah Lutz - Contributing columnist

Imagine that you have signed up to be a volunteer at a free community meal here in Wilmington. You are expecting that when you arrive, that you will be assigned a job — cooking, serving, or cleaning up — and that you will spend the duration of the event serving people who are homeless, poor, or otherwise in need.

But when you get there, you are shocked to discover that the tables have been turned: You are actually a guest, and the people who will be cooking for you, serving you, and cleaning up after you are the folks who you thought that you were going to be helping.

How would you react?

Would you go ahead and eat? Or would you high-tail it out of there?

If I am being completely honest, I don’t know if I would stick around, and I don’t think that I am alone in that. A lot of Christians love to serve. After all, “love your neighbor as yourself” is the second greatest commandment.

We know how important it is to embody Jesus Christ in our day-to-day lives, and to be people who are generous, compassionate, loving, and grace filled. Give church people a project that needs done, and we will come.

But pride is a funny thing, and when the shoe is on the other foot, and other people try to serve us, well … that’s a totally different story.

We’d much rather be needed than to be needy. We’d rather love other people than to be vulnerable and to allow someone else to love us.

That’s not how Christ-like love works, though, and Jesus even made it a point to tell His disciples that before His death.

In John 13, after Jesus has taken on the role of a servant and washed His disciples’ dirty, dusty feet, He tells them, “You also ought to wash one another’s feet. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

The love that Jesus describes here is reciprocal. Thomas should love Peter, even though he’s a bit of an idiot. Peter should love Thomas back — even though Thomas’s opinion of Peter is rather uncharitable — and then Peter and Thomas should both go on to love others, and to receive their love in return. It’s sort of like an economy.

Christ-like love is not about individuals loving and serving other individuals until they burn out. Christ-like love is about building a community.

The body of Christ — as Jesus envisions it in John 13 — is a flawed and bumpy family where people both serve and are served. It’s a beloved community where people offer support and are also supported. It’s a home where we give the sort of amazing love that God gives us to others, and where we receive that same sort of love right back.

In the body of Christ, nobody is better than anyone else. There are no only-givers, and no only-receivers. There is only mutual love.

How might your pride be getting in the way of community, Friends?

How might your compulsion to give but not to receive be preventing you from receiving love and support? How might you be alienating the people who you strive to serve by not letting them serve you without even realizing it? How might our individualistic mindsets about faith be leaving us broken and lonely?

In what ways have we inadvertently broken this beautiful commandment from Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you?”

Faith is team sport, Friends. May we learn to build and to embrace community.

And may we come around to the practice of accepting the same sort of Christ-like love that we are so eager to give.

Hannah Lutz is Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.

Hannah Lutz

Contributing columnist