Uncomfortable Love in Community {Book Club}

Uncomfortable Love in Community

Who are the people who are hard for you to love?

I was struck several years ago by a conversation about curiosity here in Book Club. We were reading The Curious Christian by Barnabas Piper, talking about how curiosity is a lost art in so many of our circles. Previously I thought curiosity meant I was walking down a path I shouldn’t- that I might change my mind or beliefs or actions merely by learning more from someone or about something that is different.

I’ve been stretching myself lately to listen to people who have different opinions than I do, or different theological or faith backgrounds. People who come from different parts of the world, or are a different race. What if I truly listened, sought to understand their side and their story, with no strings attached?

It’s been hard, to be honest. Part of me wants to run back to what is comfortable and familiar, or rush forward in judgment. But I’m sticking around, trying to learn and listen and letting the questions keep coming up to the surface.

Alia Joy has some tough things to say in chapter five of Glorious Weakness, mostly about the church. I found myself nodding in some parts of this chapter, shifting uncomfortable in my seat for others or wanting to stick my chest out in defense of the Body. What was your response to her words?

I learned a long time ago that the Body of Jesus is made up of a bunch of imperfect humans. I know that we’ve all seen the ramifications of this, been hurt or seen others hurt. I so appreciated that Alia shared her story of how she and her parents have grown to embrace the church and desire so much more for her.

I don’t usually think about the priest and Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. We know we need to care for the downtrodden, the one who might make us uncomfortable as their pain is laid bare. Yet, Alia said this: “What is hard is not the man robbed on the side of the road, beaten and left for dead. I have felt those wounds in my very soul. What is hard is loving the priest and the Levite who crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by, presumably on their way to do their holy work”.

If we pause and reflect for a moment, placing ourselves in this narrative, we can probably see who would be the hardest to love, and that might look different for each of us. As we look around our neighborhoods, our churches, our organizations, or host or passport countries, can we be real about who it is difficult to love?

It’s not easy to do the soul work of letting the Father gently reveal the people who need a gracious response in our lives. It’s not easy to uproot hurt and bitterness and choose forgiveness and grace instead. At the same time, loving might not look like restored relationship or boundarylessness, no sin consequences or the same opinion.

Alia ends the chapter with this message for us: “Maybe instead of trying to flash our golden ticket, church will be more like a banquet table where we all come banged up, ragged, penniless and starving to the feast set before us. Where we continually make space by expanding the table and the guest list doesn’t offend us so much as make us gasp in awe at the magnificent grace of a good, good God while we sit elbow to elbow with our enemy”.

Who’s your neighbor right now? How can you be more curious about, more gracious toward, more loving to them? What stood out to you in this chapter?

Here’s the schedule for the rest of the book!

November 5: Chapters 6 & 7

November 12: Chapter 8

November 19: Chapter 9

November 26: Chapters 10 & 11

Want to learn a little bit more about Alia and her story? Check out these podcast interviews!

The Complicated Heart with Sarah Mae

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey


Want to get a jump start on books for 2020? In January we will be reading Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron. It is currently only $3.49 on Kindle! Grab a copy today!

Photo by safal karki on Unsplash

7 Comments

  1. Rachel Kahindi October 29, 2019

    Since moving overseas, my relationship with church has become increasingly complicated. Could there be a more dysfunctional family??? A friend said today, “If the church is hard to love, it’s because you’re focusing on the people and not on Jesus.” True. But hard to correct! Because the people are right in front of you, creating so many problems..

    1. Sarah Hilkemann October 31, 2019

      Ah, so true, Rachel. I do find that my relationship with church has been impacted greatly during and after serving overseas. I do think we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, but we have to do life with his people. If we are going to be the Body, we need to work together, serve each other, encourage each other. So when it feels like other people are making that more difficult, it can be hard (for me at least) to keep loving them. 🙂 I appreciated that it wasn’t an easy answer for Alia in this chapter- because I don’t think there’s anything easy about it.

  2. Bayta Schwarz October 29, 2019

    Thank you so much for this, Sarah! What you said about stretching yourself and intentionally engaging with and listening to people who think differently spoke directly to a situation here I was just reflecting on. You put into words what I was struggling to express 🙂

  3. Phyllis November 2, 2019

    The part I highlighted was ” It’s not community until someone you don’t like shows up.” Yes! I have a tendency to think that we would have such a perfect little community… if we just didn’t have to include that person. But really, making that person a part of our community is what makes the community so great.

    1. Abigail November 5, 2019

      So true, Phyllis. 🙂 Right now slowly finding community in my husband’s home country as we get more equipped for long-term service in Asia this time as a couple. So no specific people in that category yet, except maybe a sister who extended an invite to us then strangely forgot about it days later. To the point we’ve been praying for her, hoping she doesn’t have some current mental health issue.

  4. Beth November 4, 2019

    This chapter really resonated with me since I have had friends who have walked away from church because of bad experiences. I loved how she pointed out how hard it is for us to love the Priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan. This was so convicting for me! They are my neighbor too aren’t they. To be honest, it is harder for me to love them though. So much harder. I mean I can uproot my family, change jobs, and move overseas all to share the love of Christ with those who don’t know Christ, but to share his love with the hypocritical Christ followers whose excuses for not loving others are often that they’re too busy being “godly”…..whoa. I think I found an area in my soul God needs to work on. It hit me, I know that Jesus is known for eating with sinners and I have chosen to strive to be like him in that regard, but I so often forget that he also ate with the pharisees too. I tend to just want to avoid the pharisee types. So yeah, I definitely need God’s grace and strength to fill my heart in order to love the priests and Levites in my life.

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