One of the most significant themes presented throughout the Bible is love. It is, in many cases, the undertone, the overt message, the context, the commandment, the moral to the story, the answer to the difficult question, and the motive. What is love without its expression?
The way in which we express our love is directly unto God and by loving other people. We form relationships with people that we know in a variety of ways and each time we encounter another person is an opportunity to express love to them and thus obey one of God’s most consequential directions. It would make sense, therefore, that there would be a recurring mention of love within the community of God throughout Scripture.
Though the model of community morphed into many distinctive representations all through the Bible, one thing was evident through the changing aesthetic, and that was that love and compassion were supposed to exist within it.
God crowned creation with a being made with care in His own image. After He made man, He announced that it was not good for man to be alone, and thus, woman was created as a companion. In this way, God established the first family and the first community, and they were in His own image.
After this, “God blessed them and told them, ‘Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:26-27) This illustrates that God considered it good for man to have a companion and He considered it a blessing to be able to have even more children and a bigger family. So God created man, and then He created someone for Him to love and that is God’s community.
Once God’s people grew and multiplied, a different kind of communities were formed; nations. Families grouped together to form tribes and tribes came together to form nations, each with its own culture and personality. When God calls out someone in repentance in the Prophets, He calls them out by nation. They sin together and thus they are called to repent together. Scriptures continually reveal a theme of togetherness and unity in a group of people.
If they are doing good, then they are encouraged and unified. If a people is doing wrong, then often God will threaten to destroy them and to scatter the people apart, ruining the accord and togetherness of the nation as punishment. Unity is illustrated as a blessing and reward for doing right things, while discord is a retribution for wrongdoing.
Jesus Christ really switches things up in the Gospels. He rebukes a lot of things and corrects a lot of false ideas. One thing that He not only reinforces but vigorously encourages is loving one-another. He commands us, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39)
However, Christ did not only love His neighbor as Himself, but He loved all people that way. In this way, Jesus set the example for us that not only should we love those in our family, or in our tribes or nations, but that we should love all people.
When Jesus died on the cross, He bound us all together under God. He broke the divisions of people and disputes over ways to earn God’s favor. He gave us all a way to have a direct relationship with God and to be unified in our community under God as one people. God told us to love one another and Jesus came to earth to show us how.
The Epistles are books that are centered around God’s community as the church, the bride of Christ. They, in many cases, call out churches on focusing their energy on worthless disputes and small matter and they let it divide them.
Paul scolds them for not concentrating on what is important, and that’s Christ. Christ is what bonds us all together as brothers and sisters. The churches were not showing love within themselves, for they were letting sin overtake them and pointless arguments cause disunity among them. Paul recognized that it was not what Christ would want and that it was important to correct their errors.
“We are all one body, we have the same Spirit, and we have all been called to the same glorious future. There is only one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and there is only one God and Father, who is over us all and in us all and living through us all.” (Ephesians 4:4-7)
Prior to the death of Christ, we were all separated from one another, and now we are all renewed and united by the Spirit of God, which lives in us if we have accepted Christ.
Scripture takes us through a journey of the creation, growth, and development of God’s people and creation. The community of God has grown from one family of two people to countless believers today. In the Old Testament, we see that loyalty to one’s family and nation were very important.
Love was expressed to one another through support and obedience. The New Testament describes a bigger, more inclusive community of God. It reinforces the idea that we are all God’s creation and we all bare His image.
For this reason, His love, the same reason He created us, He sent His son to sacrifice Himself that we might not only have a closer bond and relationship with Him now, but have the ability to spend eternity in His holy presence. The Spirit of God that lives within us creates a new community of believers and binds us in a new form of unity and loyalty. One God, one Love, one Mission, one Battle, one Cross, and one Hope tie us together in unision.