Community is one of the greatest blessings of the Christian faith. Sure, everyone can have “community,” but not everyone is quite literally brought into one body, with God Himself as the head (Colossians 1:18). When my family and I moved halfway across the country last year, our church community made us feel loved. We felt welcomed in, not isolated.
My neighbor, Neil, is recently a widower. His wife of several decades lost her battle with cancer just after we moved in, and he was left all alone. For the first several months of living next to him, we rarely spoke. I’d give him the occasional “hey neighbor!” wave when we were both in our driveways, but not much more. Neil was alone, and I barely even cared. Worse, he was a non-Christian and I knew it.
Here’s the tragic part: I was willing to drive 15 minutes to our community group every week, but I wasn’t willing to walk 15 feet toward Neil’s house. I cherished the love and comfort from our church when we were alone in a new city, but I didn’t extend that to Neil when he was alone without his closest companion. Aside from a half-hearted invite to eat dinner with our family, I didn’t welcome him in. I let him feel isolated.
In 1 John, the word “brothers” refers to other Christians. So when John says, “If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?” (1 John 3:17), he is talking about loving your Christian brothers and sisters. When we moved to town, we felt this immediately. We even shared that love by serving others in our community group.
The Holy Spirit lives inside of us, according to verse 24, so that our love for one another can continue to thrive. God’s love is perfect, and God’s love is inside of us. We’re set up for success there. As we’re told elsewhere, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). That’s a pretty good arrangement.
But unlike me, God doesn’t separate Christian community and Christian mission. We don’t merely have the Spirit inside of us to help us love each other; we also have Him in order to love others. Outsiders. The unloved and isolated. My community group and my neighbor Neil.
Now, the promise in verse 13 is that the world will hate us. They won’t understand us quite like our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is understandable. But that doesn’t negate the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). This doesn’t start in Zambia or South Korea—it starts to the right and left of my house.
We should love other Christians, showing the world God’s love through our love for one another (John 13:35). But we should not stop there. In many ways, that’s the easy part. The Spirit also empowers us to remember those who are not yet brothers and sisters. Christ came to seek and save the lost, so we, too, must follow Him to their front porches.
Written By Brandon D. Smith