As I mentioned a couple of days ago in my post “Schatter on the individual and the community“, I had an opportunity to skim through a few sections of Adolf Schlatter’s book The Theology of the Apostles: The Development of New Testament Theology. Just a few paragraphs after the one I quoted then, I found this paragraph:
As soon as the concept of love becomes the central term of ethical instruction, the community’s indispensability is secure. In the isolation of the individual, love would lose its sphere of operation and wither to an empty attitude. If it truly comes to permeate the human will, a union of giving and receiving arises for which the recipient is as indispensable as the giver. By recognizing God’s will to be love, the community receives irreproachable sanctity. (287)
There is so much depth in these three sentences.
First, if we truly understand love, then we will understand that love is the central term and driving force behind our ethic. Rules and laws and precepts will never cause us to live ethical lives. But, if we live out the love of God in our lives, then we will live ethical lives. I think that the church has replaced a life of love with a life of rules. This needs to change. Jesus said that all “rules” and “laws” boil down to two similar commands: Love God and love others.
Second, love requires both giving and receiving. Many times Christians are very happy about giving, but they are reluctant to receive. We feel that receiving makes us weak or incapable. Instead, receiving is an act of love, just like giving is an act of love. If we do not learn how to receive, then we do not understand love.
Finally, love presupposes community. We cannot be individualistic and still love. It is impossible. Love requires that we take our mind off of ourselves and think about others. Love requires that we take what is ours and give it to other people who do not deserve it. Love requires that we take last place and consider others as more significant. We cannot love without community.
I love paragraphs like this one. What do think about Schlatter’s short paragraph on love and the community?