Today, I was away from my close friends and church family. I had Chris Harrell fill in for me to continue the Young Adult’s discussion about what it might look like to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our lives as we seek to embody faithful Christian community. This was the third Sunday for discussion. The first week, we set up the idea of cultivating, nurturing, bearing fruit, and Christian community. Last week we began to look at each “fruit” by starting the first one Paul lists in Galatians 5, Love.
Last week the discussion was rather open-ended, and while we named some distinct characteristics of biblical love (love that reflects God to the world), the conversation never resolved itself. That is, we had a great discussion on what this love looks like, but we never got to the point of how to cultivate such love in our Christian Community.
Today Chris posed this question: How do we cultivate deep love in our hearts, lives, and faith communities. I am not sure how the discussion went, but I can offer some insights from Phil Kenneson’s book. The following are his suggestions for practices that cultivate love, and bear the fruit of love in our lives and in the world.
1> Paying attention to others: “We cannot love other people without paying attention to them. Yet the practices and virtues of the marketplace nourish a kind of indifference. To the extent that the marketplace encourages us to see each other at all, it encourages us to see each other as commodoties, as objects that may be exploited for our benefit. Too often, the freedom of the marketplace is translated into freedom from each other or freedom to exploit each other, all for the sake of self. But Paul tells the Galatians, ‘Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.’ If Christians are to cultivate a way of life that resists commodification of all of life, including the commodification of our relationship to God, other people and rest of God’s creation, then there is perhaps no better place to gain a foothold than in our corporate worship.
At its best, worship schools us in the art of paying attention to others, drawing our focus away from ourselves and redirecting it toward God. We gather to worship first of all not because we desire to be blessed, or because we need our ‘spiritual batteries recharged,’ or because we beleive God will love us more if we ‘go to church.’ We gather first of all out of gratitude, as a response to God’s prior activity. We gather to give praise for creating and sustaining the entire cosmos and for creating us in the divine image in order that we might have communion with God and with one another.”
2> Recieving and Giving Graciousy. “God has abundantly given to us; we respond in gratitude by offering gifts to God, and we seek to be avenues of God’s grace by giving gifts to one another. This drama of gift-giving also stands at the heart of Christian worship, most visibly in that central practice of the church: the Lord’s Supper. Though the name of this practice varies among Christian traditions, and though it is understood and celebrated in a variety of ways, all Christians who engage in this practice sense that the incomprehensible mystery at the heartof the Eucharist is inseperable from God’s other-directed love. This meal celebrates God’s love toward us in the past, empowers us for loving service in the present…”