Charles and Dianne Taylor had been married for three and a half years.  They courted for two years before they decided to join hands in union.  It was a rough start as they blended families from previous marriages. 

Charles previous marriage sadly ended in divorce when his wife left and disserted him and their nine year old son and six year old daughter.  Dianne lost her first husband suddenly to a car accident when a driver hit his car under the influence of alcohol.  She and her ten year old daughter moved into Charles home when the Taylors married. 

The first year was incredibly difficult and three years later Charles and Dianne had grown relationally burned out and emotionally thin.  Charles and Dianne both struggled developing the parental balance necessary to rebuild a family from the wreckage of their past lives.  Charles and Dianne love each other, but the hard road they have traveled in their marriage so far had led them to a point of contemplating giving up.

 

Question:  What would you suggest that Dianne and Charles do?

 

When Dianne and Charles first married they began making attendance at church a priority and got involved in a small group almost immediately.  Charles had lunch with a friend from church and shared his frustrations.  The two men had become friends over the past couple years as a part of the same small group.  Charles friend Craig shared with him about a similar time when he and his wife struggled in their relationship.  Craig prayed with and for Charles and suggested to Charles that he and Dianne go and see a Christian Family Therapist that had really helped Craig rebuild trust and new passion in his marriage to Rebecca.

Charles told Dianne all about what Craig and Rebecca had gone through and the two of them made an appointment that week to begin seeing the therapist that Craig had recommended.  Charles and Dianne became really close to Craig and Rebecca.  They jokingly called them their “Marriage Mentors”.  Craig and Rebecca made themselves available to their struggling friends.  They offered prayer and advice and became unassuming sounding boards.  At one critical point the Taylors with the support of their friends shared their situation with their entire small group.  The small group members loved on their friends in their predicament.  A couple people shared with the group that they had gone through similar rough patches and how they came through it.  One couple acknowledged that they were actually having some marital strife at that time as well.  The Taylors vulnerability helped this other couple open up and begin dealing with their problems. 

A year later the Taylors are still meeting with their counselor, but they are at a completely new place in their relationship with each other and their family has grown much closer.  The Taylors recently began hosting a new small group in their home that is being led by their friends Craig and Rebecca. The Taylors often say that if it were not for their friends Craig and Rebecca and the support of their small group and Church family they probably would not be together today, but by God’s mercy and by the amazing care and concern from their friends they are not only surviving in their marriage they are thriving.

 

Question:  What role did Charles and Dianne’s friends play in restoring their marriage?  What are the benefits of real friendship?

 

Community begins with God.  God is triune; three in one.  He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  God is community and He created us to be like Him.

Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)
26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Here in this passage God is referred to in the singular and He refers to himself in the plural.  God is three but perfectly one and He has created us in His image.  God is community and has created us for community.  He has created us for relationship, to love Him and to love each other.

 

Question:  What about the image of God as three but perfectly one helps us understand what God expects of us and our relationships to each other based on the way that He created us?

 

Jesus was confronted by experts in the law.  It was a tradition amongst the Master Teachers (Rabbis) and their disciples to debate the importance and merits of the laws.  They asked Jesus of all the laws and the profits what is the greatest command…

Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)
35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
37 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

 

Question: Based on this passage what does Jesus declare as the most important things we are to do?  How are these two commands tied together?

 

In John 17 Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would follow Him throughout the future ages.  He prayedthat (they/we) may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (v. 21). He said, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (v.22).  Again Jesus prayer illustrates for us the importance of relationship.

 

Question: In Jesus prayer what did He say was the reason for us to have complete unity?  What was at the heart of Jesus prayer here? 

 

Question: What about our love for each other is attractive to the world?

 

John shares further commentary on what God has called us to and what His plan is for our lives, for our ultimate fulfillment…

1 John 2:9 (NIV)
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)
20 If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.
21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

And again in Jesus words…

John 15:12-13 (NIV)
12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

 

Question:  These passages take some extreme positions about love. What, according to them, are indicators proving or disproving our love?

 

Question: In what ways did Jesus show us how to love?

 

The early church lived out the expression of community.  They spent time building relationships.  They ate meals together, met one another’s needs, they worshipped together and they lived life together.  They loved each other.

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

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