By Meredith Johnson. Meredith is a beloved daughter of the Father, the wife of Joshua and the mom of Luke. She loves cooking, hiking, reading, traveling, and befriending Muslim-background people. She started intentionally loving Muslims in 2005. She serves as the co-Hub Leader at All Nations Kansas City. This post is part of the ‘From the Leading Edge’ series, getting to know ANKC leaders. See our Social Media from Oct 2022 to learn more about Meredith, Joshua, and Dr. Mary Ho.
Lately I’ve been pondering a concept called “communitas.” Not communit-y but something more. A group of followers of Jesus who come together in the midst of risk, uncertainty (the threshold of in-between-ness and transition), to love one another and love the world together. This kind of communitas is powerful because it harnesses the power of Jesus’ new commandment. In John 13:34-35, Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this will all men know you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
Often, we lump this command in with loving your neighbor. But it’s so radically different! This commandment was spoken by Jesus to His own followers – so it’s a specific command to believers. Also, the subject and object of this command is reciprocal – “one another.” So one person can’t obey this command alone. There must be a communitas of people loving each other reciprocally. Finally, the standard of this love is profound: “as I have loved you.” We are called to love the way Jesus loved – that is, completely, sacrificially, even unto death!
Jesus commands a group of Jesus-followers to practice a sacrificial, reciprocal love for one another. And Jesus promises that if we do, we will unlock several powerful promises: answered prayer (1 Jn. 3:22-23), fullness of joy (Jn. 15:10-12), and empowered witness (Jn. 13:34-35). I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of life I want! I want to see more prayers answered, I want to abide in joy, and I want all the world to know that I follow Him. And the key is, as a communitas of followers, seeking to love one another as He has loved us.
Risk and Uncertainty
I’ve been a part of a few communitas groups like this before. Some did better at loving each other than others. One key aspect in every one of them was some level of risk. The risk allowed us to lean on the Lord and on one another as we moved forward.
One significant communitas was our mission team in the Middle East. We all re-located to a small ugly town on the border of Syria, despite perceived danger, a difficult language barrier, and comfort-shock. We stepped out in obedience, because Jesus gave each of us love for the Syrian people. We wanted so desperately for them to know and follow Jesus! As our team lived and worked in this risky place, we also committed to love one another sacrificially and faithfully. And as a result, we saw the promises coming to fruition. We saw prayers answered, as refugees were miraculously healed of deafness and illness! We experienced joy and laughter as we walked Muslim-background refugees into Jesus’ Kingdom! And many of our Syrian Muslim friends recognized how Jesus-followers – both us and our new Syrian Jesus-following friends – were truly different.
The Only Way
In the West, we have often tried to make Christianity “user-friendly” or “seeker-sensitive.” We don’t want to ask too much or make people too uncomfortable. But by doing this, we are robbing new followers of Jesus of all the promises of answered prayer, joy, and empowered witness. Because to know these things in deep communitas, we must engage in risk together. We must love one another even when it hurts. And we must be willing to get uncomfortable. That’s the only way.