“This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!” 1 John 4:10-12
What does it mean to love well? What does it mean to love each other? Listening to American Christian radio several years ago I heard of a band that entitled their whole album the generous Mr. Lovewell. The album is filled with songs of their thoughts on what is means to love well, but it is also a movement of people who intentionally strive to love others well. They not only strive to love others well, but seek to love as Christ loved us. If I think about love in terms of the way American Christianity teaches to love, sadly love would be superficial, ethno- and cultural-centric. But the love of God, the love that Christ lived among humanity goes beyond the similarity of others. What this band hopes to communicate by their album’s title. This love crosses the racial, ethnocentric and cultural boundaries that we humans want to bind up. If we are to love as Christ loved then it asks of us to cross the street, the tracks, the nation or maybe even the globe to communicate love. Not a love that will hurt others, but the love that Christ taught and exemplified. A love for the broken, the cast out and the downtrodden, a love that will hold the hand of a heartbroken widow who lost all she had, when her only child was killed, or who will listen to the stories of one who is tormented in sleep and in alertness by haunting dreams of the past. So if love is that which communicates what God has done for us should we not do the same. This year the Serve team has created opportunities for Thrive Church to join together and love those around us.
The third Thursday of each month we will be partnering with Night Light Tulsa to serve those in Tulsa who find themselves homeless or struggling with the basics. On the 24th of this month we will be creating and delivering baskets of treats to let those first responders in our communities (Police, Fire Fighters, Emergency Room and EMT) know that they are loved. In a few weeks we will again be joining with the Broken Arrow Neighbors Community Garden to again help cultivate fresh foods for lower income families in Broken Arrow. We will be hosting a soccer camp again in May to love on kiddos who love the sport of soccer, and we will be serving a meal to families in an apartment complex in Tulsa. But these are just opportunities to serve in the community, there are also many opportunities to serve Thrive on Sunday mornings. To be a part of the set-up/tear down team, to be a welcoming face, to teaching kiddos or baking a tasty treat. Loving like Jesus means pushing us out of our comfort zone and to get into each other’s lives, to experience the hurts and pains not only along side but also with others, to be compassionate and feel the burdens of each other. To be in the awkward moments, literally feeling others burdens in your gut.
To love well is not always joyful, Hollywood scripted, with heart-shaped dreaminess all around. It can be painful. With tears, sleepless nights of prayer and petitions. The perfect love Jesus lived out is painful as well as joyful. If Jesus’ love is perfect, observe the experience he went through to communicate it; death threats, flogging, false accusations, and ultimately death on the cross. But that was not His end. That perfect love is what is our salvation and redemption to commune with a perfect God. But to experience love well is worth it when we experience the surrounding of His arms of peace and joy in the hard and difficult days of life on this planet. It gives us the strength to bear with others in loving well. In what ways in the community, at Thrive church or walking across the street to your neighbors are you being pushed to love and serve?
GINA FARCAS | SERVE COORDINATOR