How Badly do we Really Want Community?

In the twenty-first-century West, the watering down of “love” has turned John’s radical confession into a bumper sticker. John does not talk of “love” as we do; he goes out of his way to define agapic love as the radical self-emptying, self-giving love that finds true and perfect expression only in the sacrificial sending of the Son. Because we have so elasticized the semantic range of “love,” we are in danger of supposing that the divine life is being experienced among those who hold each other in great affection or kindness. Great affection and kindness are no doubt present in agapic community, but they are augmented or fleshed out by sacrificial self-giving. Agapic community hurts; it is uncomfortable. “Living in love” involves a commitment to pouring oneself out and trusting that others will do likewise. Such relationships are fragile because even though the true light already shines, the darkness yet holds sway. Believers who wish to live in love must take care; antichrists may try to come in and take advantage of agapic lovers, abusing and cannibalizing with little regard for the cross from which such love emanates. [emphasis mine]

Thomas Andrew Bennett, 1-3 John, The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2021), 83–84.

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