Small groups are messy. It’s one thing for small group ministry leaders to know it and communicate, and yet another for the individual small group member to navigate it successfully.
People’s messy lives have the potential to bring conflict and frustration to a group if the leader doesn’t help keep the group focused on what Jesus said in Matthew 22…
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” (MSG)
I believe that you can’t really love God without really loving your neighbor. Sure, we can show God love without loving our neighbor, but we’re withholding something from God if we aren’t showing love to those God has placed in our paths.
In our small group loving God and loving our neighbor means seeing the people we do life with as Christ sees them. Seeing with old eyes sees the single mom as a failed wife. Seeing them with new, neighbor loving eyes, sees a hurting woman who struggles with what the future holds and offers love and hope. Seeing with old eyes sees the small group member struggling with alcohol as someone who has weak self-control. Seeing with new, Christ-like eyes, sees someone who is harboring lingering hurt. Someone that could use a supportive friend.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it this way…
Human love constructs its own image of the other person, of what he is and what he should become. It takes the life of the other person into its own hands. Spiritual love recognizes the true image of the other person which he has received from Jesus Christ; the image that Jesus Christ himself embodied and would stamp upon all men.
I know in my own life, more times than I’d care to admit, I have seen someone and heard their story only to come up with a list of reasons they are in the situation they are in. I want to get to the place where I consistently look into the eyes of my neighbors and see the hurt and brokeness they’ve experienced and help them recapture the the image of God in which they’ve been created with.
What are some ways you’ve experienced real spiritual love from your small group?