33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
In his very short book The Mark of the Christian Francis Schaeffer said, “Our relationship with each other is the criterion the world uses to judge whether our message is truthful – Christian community is the final apologetic.” It sounds so nice and easy doesn’t it? It’s not. Loving one another is one of the hardest things we can do.
People will say and do things that you will be offended by, even other Christians. Sometimes they might say something crass or inappropriate. What then? Will you love them? Sometimes other Christians might not have the best social skills, will you still love them? When they commit the sin you despise the most, will you love them? It’s challenging isn’t it.
When we allow ourselves to engage in real community with one another and love each other in spite of our shortcomings, sins, and offenses we can find real joy. If we, as Christians, can’t love one another, how can we love our enemy as Jesus commands (Mt. 5:44)?
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together, talks about the difficulty of community when it fails to meet our expectations,
If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
Wow, that’s what love is, isn’t it? Loving one another often means setting aside our own expectations for the sake of others. Community is hard, but it is worth the sacrifice.