Sunday, October 21, 2007

more lovesigns: brotherly love

* this is the last of the lovesigns i wasn't able to fit in fusion.


LOVESIGN: love [the love of the brothers]
1.3, 3.6, 3.12, 4.9, 5.8, 5.13

I’ve often spoken of the love I experienced in college among my rugby teammates. Our sense of camaraderie was brotherly love in its truest form.

My favorite memory was of one of our guys being repeatedly punched in the head by an ugly, troglodyte grimlock with a neck like a stack of manhole covers behind the referee’s back. When I ran over to pull this monster off of my friend, he turned his cruel affections on me…at which point my friend went quickly from ‘turning the other cheek’ [as per the twin instructions of Christ and our Coach] to defending both of mine.

I’ve never felt loved and safe like when I was surrounded by a group of guys whom I knew had my best interests at heart no matter what.

This kind of love, brotherly love [or phileo love, as it’s outlined in the mindmaps] is the kind of love for which the church in Thessalonica had become renowned. Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonian church is to ‘just keep loving.’ He claims they’re God-taught in these matters, which – of course – begs the question as to whether or not our contemporary western churches have been taught the same lessons.

The notion of loving one another as brothers and sisters probably had more significance in the ancient world than it does today. In that world, the family was the center of society – each member of each family holding high their obligation to one another. For Christians to have superseded the order of the family, welcoming one another into a new “family”, would have created quite a stir. It was odd to see people taking on responsibilities and commitments to people from different families. To have entire communities adopt one another and join themselves with other, similar, communities in other cities would have been unheard of.

But this is the result of being filled with the love of Christ. That love, the unconditional/agape love of God, takes over us and invades our base selves with nobility. It causes us to see people differently – it transforms us into lovers. Once we’ve been transformed by that unconditional love, we see our commonality with other people and recognize them as fellow image-bearers of God; as such, we recognize our true familial nature as being branches from the same vine, so to speak. Thus, in addition to the self-denying love of Christ, we can’t help but find ourselves nurturing the ‘love of the brothers.’

We take care of our relationships, recognizing them as the most spiritual thing about our earthly existence. Or, as Joe Myers has said, we recognize that ‘our true possessions are not our belongings, but our relationships.’

And, really, what does this look like? According to church growth expert Win Arn, “love is intentionally doing something caring or helpful for another person, in Jesus' name, regardless of the cost or consequence to oneself.”

What if we really began to practice loving one another in our churches? What would it be like for us to be so committed to loving our city and our world that we could not possibly stomach the fragmentation and hurt that lays upon our friends like wet carpets?

Paul’s instructions remind us to cultivate this ethic of love.

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