October / November 2019 - Vol.106

Word of Life
The Great Commandment and Life Together in Christ

Intro to this issue: God's covenant love
The Scriptures tell us that love and truth are integral to growth, maturity, stability, and integrity in all of our relationships. The Apostle John tells us that love cannot be genuine unless it is united with the truth.
“Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth” – 1 John 3:18.

The biblical word for truth in Hebrew, which is emeth, means fidelity, faithfulness, sureness, certainty, trustworthiness, and reliability. It describes the personal character trait of someone whose is utterly reliable and whose word is true. Scripture tells us that God is “faithful and sure (true)” (Isaiah 25:1). 

The key biblical word for love in Hebrew is hesed. It is a love that is based on covenant commitment.  God desires a people who will be joined to him in a lasting bond of committed love, faithfulness, goodness, and truth. The Hebrew word hesed literally means steadfast love, unfailing love, loving-kindness. It is loyal and faithful love. It is the love that God, over and over, expressed to Israel his people.

    Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
    yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken.
        - Isaiah 54:10 

Restoration of covenant commitment and shared life together
God is at work today in restoring his people to covenant commitment and unity in brotherly love and common mission in proclaiming the Gospel and making disciples of all nations. One sign of this work is the Christian covenant community movement which began 50 years ago through charismatic renewal among the churches. Today there are many hundreds of Christian covenant communities around the world. What is the significance of covenant community
today? First, it is a signpost of what God is bringing about through the gift of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. It is a visible public sign of the Lord's work of renewal in bringing people into a revitalized relationship with God, and it is a sign of the unity he desires for all his people. The unity we already have as brothers and sisters in Christ stems from baptism and the gift and working of the Holy Spirit. This gift of life together enables Christians of different traditions to recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and to live together in real shared life. This unifying grace is a hallmark of God's work today.

We believe that covenant communities are meant to be a prophetic sign to the rest of the charismatic renewal, and to the churches, and to the world. It's a message to everybody, but not everybody is called to this particular form of community. People should be able to visit covenant communities and see how the Holy Spirit is renewing his people and restoring to them a fuller shared life together. It is part of the nature of a sign that you cannot be everything. Covenant communities cannot do everything and cannot solve all problems facing Christian churches today. They are only a part, but, nonetheless an important part of God's work of renewal and restoration.

In this issue we seek to share some of the fruit and wisdom of growing together in Christian love, shared life, and mission together as a community of disciples. Our prayer is that all God's people may be restored to the unity Christ prayed for on the eve of his sacrifice on the cross, and be renewed in the power and gifts of the Spirit for life and mission together.

Sincerely in Christ,
Don Schwager

top image: Word of Life community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

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