Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other...
1 Peter 4:8a
This spring I facilitated a course for about 40 adults in our church called Emotionally Healthy Relationships. It was about as straightforward as it sounds. We discussed hands-on skills and tools to help us love others well with our words, expectations, and attitudes.
During one session, my breakout group got onto the subject of deep relationships. Someone mentioned how much they appreciate being able to get below the surface in connection with others, but how much of a challenge that can be.
And I started thinking about "surface tension." Surface tension is fascinating. The top of a liquid will naturally resist external forces, because there is a cohesive nature to the molecules on the surface. In simple terms, it forms a sheet on the top that insects can walk on... and that also feels like a slab of concrete if you jump onto it from too high up.
There's a literal, scientifically-proven force out there that pushes us away from experiencing depth. And all along you just thought you were socially awkward!
Surface tension is surprisingly powerful. Maybe that's why Peter writes to the early church in such un-ambiguous language: Most importantly, friends! Love deeply.
A key to healthy discipleship and being the Church is that our love has got to go below the surface. The actual Greek word that is translated "deep" in the NIV means "fervent." This is a love that requires true effort and true commitment to break through the surface layers. (This love also covers a multitude of sins! But that's for a different day.)
Simply understanding love in this way is a first step to healthy Christian community. The second is acknowledging that surface tension is a real thing. When we name the reality of surface tension and how easy it is to avoid depth in our relationships, we can move beyond our egos and be more intentional about diving deeper and breaking through.
But somebody has to go first. With how strong the pull is to stay on the surface of conversations and relationships, someone is going to have to break the tension and make the splash. Someone has to be willing to ask great questions, share honestly, and disrupt the ease of surface level interactions. You will rarely love people well by talking about the weather every time you see them.
As we learn to practice deep love, beauty will emerge in new ways. First, we will find that below the surface there is a world as vast and surprising and mysterious as the ocean itself, with infinitely unexplored areas and new discoveries all the time. Knowing someone's story infinitely increases our capacity to love them. Listening to someone's hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows is a rare and special gift. And sharing our own with others is equally beautiful. We will discover things about ourselves and our sisters and brothers that change how we experience the world.
Additionally, this type of love is a witness-- a beautiful invitation for others to explore the Jesus community. People will look and note that the Christians among them have a depth of care and love that is unique and compelling. To borrow the words of Jesus, everyone will know we are his disciples by our love for one another: love with a depth and fervency about it.
So how will you dive in this week? Who will you show love to in a new way? Who will you pray for and encourage? To whom will you ask a great question and listen meaningfully? How will you break the surface tension?
Jesus, give me a genuine love for others today, and lead me to take a step toward deeper and more meaningful interactions. Give me courage to go deeper.