Serving in Oneness: Post-Easter Thoughts on Christian Community

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Just before Jesus’ death he prayed, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)

Jesus knew that the gospel was going to be spread through relationships. He also knew that it had to start with a loving community of Jesus followers. So, just before his suffering and death he prayed for his disciples and us that we may be one. Jesus desired with all of his heart that we would love one another, not only for our sake, but for the sake of our neighbors and friends who do not yet know that Jesus loves them.

What did Jesus mean by oneness? What is our picture of Christian oneness?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together provides honest, Biblical principles for doing life together as the body of Christ.

One of the principles that caught my attention was serving. He was not referring to serving together outside the community but serving each other. Bonhoeffer outlined three ways to serve each other; listening, active helpfulness and bearing one another’s burdens. Let’s imagine how your small group or Christian community might be blessed by living by these principles.

Listening: Bonhoeffer says, “Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them.” (Life Together, 83) This type of listening involves listening to the end of the sentence. Listening is not waiting for your turn to talk. Listening is not jumping to a conclusion before others finish their thought (I’m guilty) or talking past others. It is listening patiently, graciously, with the ears of God. How could your small group serve each other through the ministry of listening?

Active helpfulness: A helpful person is willing to be interrupted to serve others with minor, common, everyday tasks. Active helpfulness requires humility and putting your own agenda aside.  In what ways does your Christian community help each other?

Bearing one another’s burdens: This type of serving requires endurance and suffering. Just as Christ lived among us and suffered for us, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. We are bound together in good times and bad times. It will require ongoing compassion and forgiveness. When have you experienced the body of Christ bearing your burdens with you?

May we be brought to complete unity as we serve one another!

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Sam, thank you for this posting. I am leading our adult Sunday School classes this month in a series on Community - What This Means in the Church. It is good to be reminded that, as the body of Christ, we should look to the Trinity as our ultimate example of community. I also have learned a lot from reading Bonhoeffer's book on this subject. Another author I've enjoyed studying is Jean Vanier, founder of L'Arche Communities. He has written several books on community, especially as it pertains to reaching out to those with disabilities.

Participant

Thanks Sam, I love Bonhoeffer's writings.  These things sound so simple yet seem so difficult for people in a "me first" society. I often wonder if a key reason many of our churches struggle is this very issue of not being able to truly serve one another.  It's so much more than getting some meals together for a hurting family.  We've recently talked about this with our small group leaders and in our council.  How do we walk the journey together?  How do we love unconditionally and live intentionally?

Great stuff Sam.

Thanks

Guide

Thanks for you comments!