In this session we take a look at the profound shift that must take place in our attitude toward one another if we are truly going to cultivate a village on mission animated by the love of God.
CAVEAT: The content below was originally written before the pandemic, so please apply it with wisdom and discernment.
Perhaps you have sat in a group of people at church and thought to yourself:
“I just don’t like the people who are coming to my church! I wouldn’t choose to hang out with these people, and it’s hard to create a village with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with!”
When it hits us, it’s quiet a stunning and a little embarrassing. On the surface it seems like an innocuous expectation. We expect that we should be able to choose who and how we build “community” with others.
This brings us face to face with one of the hidden ways we are trained as consumers; we assume we ought to be able to hang out with people we like.
We all carry around a built-in “affinity bias.” It’s normal and natural to gravitate toward people who are similar to us, people who enjoy the same kinds of experiences we do. But affinity bias becomes a problem when we don’t reflect on and ask questions about our choices.
So, while it’s normal to want to hang out with people we like, should we expect that this is the way is will always work?
Paul’s affinity affection for the churches
As I read through the Apostle Paul’s interactions with the churches he planted, I’m struck by the exuberant, overflowing affection he expresses for the diverse, often troubled churches he planted.
· “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:8).
· “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thess 2:8).
· “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal 4:19).
This breathtaking affection co-exists with the massive problems Paul had to address in these churches. Paul expresses an affection that is clearly stronger and more robust than the mild feelings of enjoyment that come from spending time with people you like.
From convenient affinity to cultivated affection
It would seem that if we’re going to build an actual village among those we lead, we’re going to have to shift from what is an inherent and natural (affinity) to that which is intentional and nurtured (affection).
Affinity is where we relate to others who make us feel good about ourselves, whom we share something in common with already. Affinities are just our preferences, perhaps a place to start.
Affection calls you to cultivate new levels of being together. It can be with people who you already have an affinity for, or people you would not ordinarily think to connect with. It takes intentional investment for it to grow.
In our society today we are very much consumers, and our preference is the law by whi