The command to love one another is a major theme of the New Testament. In John 14 Jesus issues it as a new commandment, in John 21 Jesus responds to Peter’s declaration of love by asking him to work it out in the way he serves God’s people (feed my sheep, take care of my lambs). Love should be evident in the way we help and serve one another.
We often emphasise that this is to be worked out within every local church. Believers are to have the servant attitude of Christ (Phil 2), we are to put on love (Col 3) we are to take seriously the “one another’s of scripture- (love one another/ be devoted to one another/honour one another/ build one another up etc). Within our fellowships we try and work these principles out to the glory of God.
The difficulties come when we are dealing with Christians outside of our own fellowships and communities. Do they still count as brothers and sisters? How can we find the time to care for everyone? Is it my place to encourage or help them when they already have a church family? The logistics of this make it easier to close our own sheep pen and start caring for those we know well and to do that exclusively.
One of the most beautiful examples of cross-church care I witnessed was in London. One church was having a weekend away and another fellowship in the region found out. They contacted the church that was going away and volunteered to do the youth work and catering for the weekend so the church could be fully focused and together when taking time aside for meetings. There is something about generous, unforced grace and kindness that is compelling. I have often though that unity and love is expressed beautifully in helping each other in times of need.
Emmanuel/Link church in Birkenhead has grown from a small church plant to a large, vibrant fellowship over a period of about 20 years. People from all walks of life have come to faith through hearing the good news of Jesus there. Link church recently renovated their main hall. They had a number of chairs to replace, many of which were serviceable. They asked if anybody needed their chairs.
Responses came from 2 groups- Brinnington Community Church in Manchester and a recent renovation of an old Church building to be used as a café and community centre in Saltney, Chester. A local Christian found out about this and paid for a van and petrol and the journey was booked. The chairs were put into the van and taken to Brinnington where the drivers were rewarded with quality coffee courtesy of Martin Korchinski. The church had a baptism service that Sunday and the chairs could be used for that.
After this the remaining chairs were taken and given to Old Church Café in Saltney. A Christian friend was involved in the renovation there and took us around the building, once derelict and used as a den for drug addicts, now a center for community life in a more needy part of Chester. 2 pews were also taken and are now being used by local Christians in Wirral- one adorning an indoor garden area near the hot tub!
Seeing brothers help and serve each other in this way should light the way in terms of what love looks like. Christ taught that love is expressed in action- and modelled it through his sacrificial death and resurrection. When we think about how we can show love to our brothers and sisters, do remember that it does not always have to be in the realms of our own local fellowship.
(Partnership Regional Co-ordinator, North West)