We’ve shared a lot these past couple of years. From sheltering in place to being worried if we have enough toilet paper, to navigating relationship dynamics caused by the unfolding turmoil and confusion of the pandemic and other societal issues.
We’re not going to rank which of these were the most challenging, but that last one inspired many authors to write what are now bestselling books (i.e. Jennie Allen’s “Find Your People” is #1 in Amazon’s “Christian Women’s Issues list, #2 in Friendship and #3 in Christian Personal Growth).
Bottomline: We need community.
Footnote: Christians are not exempt from the threats and invitations for division.
I saw it with my family. I saw it with my friends. I’ve seen some friendships get stronger, and others part ways. And to be perfectly transparent, I’ve also seen and felt in myself the strong temptation to lock my door and never come out.
Perhaps you know exactly what I’m talking about. Where Oscar the Grouch suddenly makes more sense than Elmo, and you wonder how you’d ever fulfill the Lord’s commandment to “love your neighbor” again because someone hurt you, disagreed with you, let you down, or left you.
Some of our most challenging trials involve the people we love, and our human minds somehow conceive them to be a reflection of God. “If they don’t love me, then God must not.”
That couldn’t be further from the truth, and our mutual best friend has holes in His hands and feet to prove it. While your door was locked, Jesus came looking for you. He left the 99 for you, and He will leave the 99 for you. No matter how many times you lock your door.
He had YOU in mind the day He took on flesh, was crucified in His flesh, died in His flesh, and rose up in His Spirit…So YOU could experience Him…and so you could experience Him through others.
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:9-17 NLT
I’m not saying to deny the difficult things that happened to you. They happened, your feelings are valid, and I’m sorry for the pain you experienced.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve been encouraged by our Father to lay out the welcome mat again, it’s that forgiving and forgetting is only possible when we obey His commandment to love one another.
Because the truth is, we didn’t choose the Lord. He chose us. And we get to choose each other. We get to.
Our joy is made complete in both knowing AND applying the Lord’s commandment to love one another. As the great Victor Hugo penned in Les Miserables, “To love one another is to see the face of God.”
Lay out the welcome mat. Jesus is coming over.