Ian Greig writes: The individualism of the world we live in has a cost. As young people, we loved our new-found independence – but there’s a down side to it. We were intended to be in community, not on our own. There are many ‘togethers’ and ‘one anothers’ in the New Testament. When we champion the cause of the individual, we are setting ourselves up to be separated and sidelined. It only takes a commonplace attack of relational dysfunction in the ultimate community, the body of Christ, and one of the devil’s more effective strategies to get sheep isolated and therefore vulnerable starts to play out
Long time no see
I attended the funeral recently of a longstanding friend. We were in a home group together as young Christians and young marrieds, and Rachel and her husband lived round the corner from us and next door to my sister-in-law and husband. So her funeral brought out a lot of shared experiences and some poignant ‘reunion conversations’ catching up on what people have been doing and are doing now.
‘Not doing church now’
It was striking, how many we had known making their contribution in various church settings were saying, “We’re not doing church now”. No crisis of faith, no loss of confidence, no great schism in the stories they were telling — just a shared sense that, over time, Sunday morning attendance and church politics had become life-sapping rather than life-giving.
Church, for so many, has become associated with harshness, control and abuse. It is no longer a safe place to be. It appears to have “lost its first love” (Rev. 2:4).
A shift in values takes place, little bit by little bit. It’s hardly noticeable except, over time. The values are no longer true to Jesus’ charge: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 NIV
What has caused this shift? What is behind the rising disquiet and growing alienation from Jesus’ church? It is that expectations have changed, or is it that there has been a loss of focus?
That is a discussion we must continue.
FOR REFLECTION AND FURTHER BIBLE STUDY
- Jesus warned that as the time drew near for Him to come again, people would turn way from the faith, betray and hate one another, and “the love of most will grow cold” (Matthew 24:10-12). How are we seeing this?
- If love is the guiding principle of the gospel – God’s love for us received, our love for Him returned in worship, this love expressed in how we relate to others – why are we prone to forget this?
- How straightforward or difficult is it to live as disciples of Jesus with the hallmark of loving one another?
- Have expectations changed? Do we no longer expect love to be the main thing? Why would that be?