Churches are supposed to be places that are bursting with connection and community, but sometimes they couldn’t feel further from it. Writer Shakira Peronet shares her experience of feeling lonely at the Sunday service and how we can all do better.
When you look around at the church you’re in, how many people do you really know, really love, really have deep and meaningful relationships with? We are called to love another as Christ loves the Church and of course we cannot do this with one hundred people even twenty would be tough. But when you look at the relationships you have within the body. Are they relationships that show Christ?
”A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35.
I love that word, it’s so perfectly placed. It shows us that if we don’t love one another; we disobey Jesus and nobody will know we are disciples (Christians). Jesus is so specific too! It’s clear that side hugs and saying: “how has your week been?” while waiting for a polite moment to leave is not the kind of love Jesus is talking about. He specifically says: “As I have loved you.”
How has Jesus loved us?
- He loved us first, when we were still sinners uninterested in knowing him. (Romans 5:8)
- He laid down his life for us even though he knew some of us would never choose to follow him. (1 John 3:16)
- He chose to wash the feet of the man that would betray him (John 13:12-14)
- He has compassion, when we mourn, he mourns with us. (John 11:33-35)
It’s impossible to show this kind of love to our brothers and sisters when we don’t know them. And it’s hard to ever know our church family if we don’t have meaningful time together. And if we don’t have meaningful time together, we won’t ever really know how that person wants to be loved. You see the domino effect here?
It’s impossible to show Jesus’ love to our brothers and sisters when we don’t know them.
Surely this should happen naturally, since we are all Christians right? The answer is no! Loving people is hard even when we all have Jesus in common. Love takes perseverance, intentionality, conflict resolution, emotional energy and sacrifice too. It’s far from rainbows and butterflies, it should be different to relationships in the world where the word “love” is so often abused. In Christ centred relationships there will be conflict, we will hurt each other, there will be misunderstandings and if you haven’t experienced any of this with your church family, it probably means you aren’t that close. Do they really feel like your brothers and sisters? Or perhaps just names and faces you see on a Sunday? Food for thought.
But rest assured, that when we don’t obey the command to love. We end up with a big church full of lonely Christians, how do I know? I am one of them. Though falling in love and moving to Paris sounds wonderfully romantic (that’s because it is). The hardest part of moving to a new city sixteen months ago has been joining a church and fostering loving relationships, because just like romantic relationships, they only work if you both want the same thing.
Love takes perseverance, intentionality, conflict resolution, emotional energy and sacrifice too. It’s far from rainbows and butterflies.
My first few months in Paris, I was bewildered why my zealous texts to meet up were not responded to with joy and enthusiasm to connect and become sisters with matching bracelets within a few months. I’d never had a hard time making friends before, and when sharing with a few sisters in church that I was feeling lonely, they always nodded their heads in understanding. They even shared about their own times of loneliness, yet somehow nobody was prepared to get in the boat with me… till finally one said. “I’ll be your friend, let’s make a pact to meet up once a week… minimum.” And as they say the rest is history.
So let’s burn this question, “how has your week been?” and replace it with, “how are you feeling today or what are you learning right now?” Anything but the mundane and the monotonous questions that just allow the other person to thoughtlessly say “yeah, all good thanks.” There are so many to our left and right who want Christ centered, deep, meaningful relationships, but today let us each to choose to be the person that cultivates this kind of love for one another.