Church Re-imagined: A Church overflowing with love

Church re-imaginedHow can we love God’s way (1 John 4:7)?

Physical boundaries mark a visible property line – you know where it starts and ends.  You know what your responsibility is and what isn’t.  In the spiritual world, boundaries are just as real, but often harder to see. Understanding your spiritual boundaries will increase your love (v16) and save your life (v18). They help you to guard  and maintain the soul (Prov. 4:23).

God designed a world where we all live "within" ourselves; that is, we inhabit our own souls, and we are responsible for the things that make up "us."

The heart knows its own bitterness, and no one shares its joy (Prov. 14:10)

God and Love

God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and he is responsible for himself. He defines and takes responsibility for his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one, but at the same time they are distinct  persons with their own boundaries. Each one has his own person-hood and responsibilities, as well as a connection and love for one another (John 17:24).

He also defines himself as separate from his creation and from us. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who he is and who he is not. For example, he says that he is love and that he is not darkness (1 John 4:16; 1:6). God also limits what he will allow. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behaviour. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. He invites people in who will love him, and he lets his love flow outward to them at the same time. The "gates" of his boundaries open and close appropriately.

In the same way he gave us his "likeness" (Gen. 1:26), he gave us personal responsibility within limits. He wants us to "rule and subdue" the earth and to be responsible stewards over the life he has given us. To do that, we need to develop love like God’s.

To and For: We are responsible to others and for ourselves.

"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

This verse shows our responsibility to one another.

The Greek word for burden means "excess burdens," or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down. These burdens are like boulders. They can crush us. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves! It would break our backs. We need help with the boulders—those times of crisis and tragedy in our lives.

Many times others have "burdens" that are too big to bear. They will not have enough strength, resources, or knowledge to carry the load, and they need help. Denying ourselves to do for others what they cannot do for themselves is showing the sacrificial love of Christ. This is what Christ did for us. He did what we could not do for ourselves; he saved us. This is being responsible "to."

"Each one should carry his own load." Galatians 6:5

This verse shows our responsibility for ourselves.

The Greek word for load means "cargo," or "the burden of daily toil." This word describes the everyday things we all need to do. These loads are like rucksacks. Rucksacks are possible to carry. We are expected to carry our own. We are expected to deal with our own feelings, attitudes, and behaviours, as well as the responsibilities God has given to each one of us, even though it takes effort.

Everyone has responsibilities that only he or she can carry. These things are our own particular "load" that we need to take daily responsibility for and work out. No one can do certain things for us. We have to take ownership of certain aspects of life that are our own "load."

Good In, Bad Out

Loving others requires that we "guard our heart with all diligence." We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside. Keep the good in and the bad out. Guard our treasures (Matt. 7:6) so that people will not steal them.

Sometimes, we have bad on the inside and good on the outside. In these instances, we need to let the good in and the bad out. For example, if I have some pain or sin within, I need to open up and communicate it to God and others, so that I can be healed. Confessing pain and sin helps to "get it out" so that it does not continue to poison me on the inside (1 John 1:9; lames 5:16; Mark 7:21-23).

And when the good is on the outside, we need to open our gates and "let it in." Jesus speaks of this phenomenon in "receiving" him and his truth (Rev. 3:20; John 1:12). Other people have good things to give us, and we need to "open up to them" (2 Cor. 6:11-13).

The Bible does not say that we are to be "walled off" from others; in fact, it says that we are to be "one" with them (John 17:11). We are to be in community with them. But in every community, all members have their own space and property.

Further reading: Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend:

Cell Outline:

Read 1 John 2:3-11

1. How has one of your relationships changed since you became a Christian?

2. Describe a relationship that still needs transformation as you learn to live more in God’s light.

3. What is one relationship where you have a hard time expressing love?

4. How can your small group members pray for you as you seek a tender heart and loving spirit toward this person?

5. What actions could you take that would begin to express love toward this person?

Read 1 John 2:12-14

Try to read verses 12-14 not as if they were written to three different age-groups, or maturity levels, but to apply to all Christians.

8. What does John say about us as Christians?

9. How does confidence of these truths empower you to be a person of love?

10. Describe how you are experiencing one of these truths in a deep and personal way in your life right now.

11. How would you like to grow deeper in your understanding of one of the truths?

Read 1 John 4:7-12

12. We all receive love in different ways. What is one way people can clearly show you that they love you with the love of God?

13. How does focusing on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sins help you grow in your ability to love others?

14. What is one act of love you could show to another person in the coming week?

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