“. . . THOU ART MINE, AND I AM THINE.”
Today’s Scripture Reading
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. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
1 John 4:7-21
Relationship experts will tell you that what matters most for healthy, enduring relationships, particularly marriages and families, is a combination of factors, such as commitment, faithfulness, generosity, patience, forgiveness, trust, proximity and time, communication, and selflessness. the mutual connection two or more people share is dependent upon each person's willingness to graciously give to the other without expecting anything in return -- this is community.
Community, from the Latin, connumitas, literally means "with gifts." The individual members of couples, families, or small groups realize that all of who they are and all of what they have is meant for the sake of the others. When this notion becomes practical, or real, no one is in need. This, of course, is the story of the early church as we understand it from Acts, such as in chapter 2 and 4. Those particular passages describe a community in which "there were no needy persons among them" (Acts 4:34). Acts 2 and 4 give us a beautiful image of a loving community. Love is not only the impetus for such sharing and intimacy found within the communities of the very early church, it is also the outcome, producing a virtuous cycle in which to orient our lives.
Unlike the English language, which is limited to one word for love, the Greek language provides us with at least four words. These four words are eros, storge, philia, and agape. You've probably heard of these words. Eros is love on physical level. Storge is love on or at the familial level. Philia is personal affection or love on a friendship level. Agape, however, is considered by many as a different kind of love, a different dimension of love altogether. Where eros, storge, and philia are natural ways to describe our emotional connection and heartfelt response to one another, agape love is more of a person's quality than it is a different kind of love.
Agape love comes from God. It is a perfect love. In fact, we can only agape because God first agape(d) us. This is fatherly love of God, the kind of love that drives out fear and makes us perfect, is on display in God's longing to be in relationship with humanity and to restore creation to wholeness. Agape love orders our lives, develops and defines our character, and yields a mutual connectedness to one another that drives our selfless actions toward others. First Corinthians 13:1-13 is likely the most well-remembered passage about love (along with John 3:16) that gives us a clear picture of what agape love is:
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
This particular part of the Wesley Covenant Prayer, "thou art mine, and I am thine," is deeply personal. While the prayer pertains to groups of all sizes, it is meant to establish the friendship between the pray-er and God, individually. To pray, "thou are mine, and I am thine," is to honor and celebrate the affection that God has for us and that we have for God. Additionally, to pray this portion of the prayer is to admit reliance upon God for initiating the relationship, to highlight that it is God's agape love that shapes the pathway of our lives, as love is the dominant theme to the Christian ethic, and to esteem the truth that in God we are lived unconditionally and entirely. This truth creates an enduring mutuality.
What matters most to me in my relationships?
Where do I find community? What's my role in helping others find community?
May our lives be known for agape love -- the kind of love that drives our fear and is complete. Order our lives accordingly. Make us the selfless people you desire us to become. In the name of you Son, Jesus's name, we pray. Amen.
REFLECT AND INVITE
Take a moment to reflect on the community in which you find a safe, secure, and welcoming place. As you identify the community(ies) where you belong, be sure to send a text, email, letter, or make a phone call to tell those in you community how much they mean to you and the impact they have in your life. Take the challenge to another level by seeking someone you know who is in need of community and invite the person to join yours.
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