Communion

Community offers communion and communion builds community. It’s a circular statement, I know, but my aim is to point to the circularity–the reciprocity–of relationships. Every authentic relationship grows within the milieu of mutual exchange: we speak and we listen. We listen and we speak. We care and we receive care.

Souls become bonded into a community in this free exchange, an exchange we properly refer to as love whenever the reciprocity is motivated by selfless concern and care. To love is to give and to receive. The greater the love, the greater the exchange. Jesus said as much when he called his disciples to the full measure of love: “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends” [John 15:13]. The sacrifice of one’s own life as a means to care for another displays ultimate commitment.

And this commitment is what God himself shares in his own eternal communion of love. The Father loves the Son. The Son loves the Father. And the Spirit communicates that love in an eternal reciprocity of mutual delight and glory–a mutuality Jesus celebrated in his prayer for all his followers: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given because you loved me before the foundation of the world” [John 17:24].

Jesus, of course, understood that the pathway to this shared glory came only by way of the cross! That is, the prayer of John 17 is the culmination of the promise of John 3:16, that God so loved the world that he sent the Son so we might believe in him and have eternal life. Jesus came in order to resolve the problem and power of sin by his own death. The Father’s love expended the Son’s life in order to give us the Son’s eternal life. Jesus, in John 12, spoke of this as the “purpose” for which he entered into manhood. He went on, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” [John 12:31-32].

Death, of course, could not contain or restrict the Son who is the source of Life, so this plan paved the way for our own communion with God through our union with Christ–first in his death and then in his resurrection.

By this means the community of God’s love is extended to as many as have responded to his love. The Spirit pours out God’s love in our hearts and invites us to the eternal union of joint hearts in the life of the one Spirit.

Let me return now to what I wrote at the beginning of this post about “every authentic relationship.” The measure of real relationships is God himself as he exists as the eternal triune font of relationship. Yet there is a counterfeit to that fountain. Satan, in searching for his own alternative realm, conceived of an “un”-world. He reversed all that God is and does. In that realm of death (as opposed to God’s realm of Life) a revised version of what “god” means and what “relationship” expresses was established. Unlove replaced love. Self-defined moralities replaced God’s moral realities. Adam, in becoming “like God”, adopted a version of God that Satan proposed: a God of self-interest, of monadic and non-relational will. Autonomy now replaces community as the basis for meaning.

The implications of this were and are monumental. The original Edenic reciprocity of mutual love was replaced by the assertion of contractual expectations. Relationships became functions of utilitarian exchanges–the transactions of goods and services. Selflessness was replaced by self-interest and “love” became a conditional covenant exercised by mind and will rather than in the mutual devotion of shared hearts.

These relationships are inauthentic because they operate apart from God’s own heart. They adopt self-belief, self-devotion, and self-advancement as their axioms for operation. When mutual interests among parties are being met they can even mimic the communion of God, but only as a charade. In time they fail because the bond of the Spirit’s presence–his love and life–are absent.

God’s love in Christ came to undo all of this. By pouring out his Spirit into our hearts God invites us now to be partners and pioneers in an ever-widening community–sharing in God’s spreading goodness.

So now we have access to the very love that bonds God as the One who “is love.” We begin to love with his love. And with that love we begin to impact the world by our dismissal of the world’s conditional love and it’s debilitating contractual demands. Instead we find and then share the freedom of being fully and truly loved.

If any readers recognize your own place in the conditional realm of relations, and not in God’s realm of loving relationship, let me invite you to taste God’s goodness. How? By turning away from a self-directed life–call this repentance–and ask for God’s love to be poured out into your heart. He loves to share his love!

And here’s the punchline: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love each other” [John 13:35].

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2 Comments

  1. Morgan Reynolds

    Christ crucified..repentance..Love..thanks ron!
    ’nuff said!
    also..
    Isaiah 55
    Romans 10
    Psalm 25:14

    may this find you gentle readers in good health; and may you feel God smile down upon you this day and always.
    morgan
    ps: psalm 25:14

  2. Clive

    Ron I ask for you grace as I take the liberty to share a personal anecdote that intersects with some of your commentary:

    I live in Hawaii and the local college football team University of Hawaii (UH) was a community I eagerly entered into last year. At that time, there were high hopes for the team. I decided to communicate my shared identity by painting my face in green! Wholehearted if nothing else. Well UH finished 12-0. It was a great season, unmatched by any other college team that year. After beating top-ranked Boise State I went home but stopped off at one of the largest shopping malls in the US, Ala Moana Center. It should be said that hitherto, I previously walked through the mall without connection, without contact, just a shopper. But with green painted face clearly communicating my identity, lots, and I mean lots of people actually came up to me and connected with me. “We’re #1”, “you’re the man”, “Go UH”. A communicated identity in the midst of success brings about a lot of response. Is this love?

    Now here’s the flip side.
    On Sunday morning, I communicate my identity in Christ, not with painted face, but with love, with greeting, with handshake, with embrace to those who attend church. Remarkably I encounter two reactions. One is no different than that I experienced in the success of UH at the shopping mall. No it’s not “Go Jesus” or “we’re #1” but there is evident many expressions of joy in the Lord. However, there’s also another reaction just as evident. I sometimes feel like I am just walking through the mall and the shared identity is really unseen. It makes me feel, on occasion, that we’re all just shoppers bumping into each other at the mall, even though we are supposedly in fellowship. Is this love?

    So, how will I continue to respond given these experiences? I will continue to live out my love to others despite Sunday mornings sometimes being just like the mall. When there is connection, I will rejoice, but overall I’ll keep in mind and enjoy the fact that Christ was the one who looked out for me and spoke into my life even though I wasn’t interested. “even while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” His love stirs me.

    The froth of success is very intoxicating, especially for fottball teams and even in the church, but I am careful with my heart. My joy in community is not driven by success, but increasingly so, in response to Him. I hope you found this helpful. Clive.

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