No question, we were made for community…to dwell in peace and harmony with one another (Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 1:10, Colossians 3:14).
Unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s far too easy to lose sight on what real community is. And while many point the finger to “rugged individualism”, technological advances, and unholy tolerances…perhaps the biggest culprit lies in how we culturally define relationship, specifically…that relationship and community are the same thing…and that community is the byproduct of formed the relationships.
Granted, such falsehood is easily bought, especially when you factor in we’re living in the most narcissistic age the world has ever seen. Yet, when we take what we hear and experience and contrast it to God’s Word, we find the truth looks radically different.
You see, before creation, community existed within the Trinity. There was no need for God to bond with Jesus…no need for the Holy Spirit to befriend God…no need for Jesus to send a Facebook friend request to God. Why? Because the Trinity wasn’t ever created! Contrarily, it has existed for all eternity. So when we consider the Trinity, we ultimately discover: a) Relationship and community are not the same and b) Relationships are built, but community is.
In other words, community must first establish itself before real relationships can form. If we think community only happens if the right relationships take off, then we’re not only believing a lie, but we’re living without an accurate perception on covenant.
What’s covenant? Well, for starters, it’s a holy promise designed for our prosperity…a code of conduct with specific guidelines for us to follow; however, it’s also a relationship based on mutual commitment that connects us to the will of God. So while a covenant could be seen as a spiritual bill of rights, such perception is incomplete without community.
For the believer, it’s important to live covenant in a way that shows how a relationship with God is the greatest gift we have, even more than rewards reaped from holy living. Sadly, many don’t have a clue on what covenant is, let alone its place in our briskly paced, “me and my relationship” world.
Need evidence? Look no further than how others perceive their likability as “on par” with pursuing relationship.
Now, some of you might be thinking: But I’m not sure how else to think. Are you sure this isn’t the best way to view your identity?
Of course not!
Why? Because in God’s eyes, your likability has already established. Thus, we don’t need to pursue relationships to validate our identity…our likability. Instead, we have been given the blessed opportunity to pursue covenant as God intended.
So how does this all relate to the church?
Let’s start by discussing the church as the bride of Christ.
In the New Testament, Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride (). Just as there was a betrothal period in biblical times during which the bride and groom were separated until the wedding, so is the bride of Christ separate from her Bridegroom during the church age. Her responsibility during the betrothal period is to be faithful to Him (; ). At the Second Coming of Christ, the church will be united with the Bridegroom, the official "wedding ceremony" will take place and, with it, the eternal union union of Christ and His bride will be actualized (; ).1
Consider Joe’s spousal analogy. When you marry your spouse, you don’t just stop doing life together or contemplate leaving when things get rough. Rather, you stand by your commitment to stick things out through thick and thin.
Yet, with the majority of relational paradigms void of covenant, no wonder the divorce and premarital sex rates are so high. As sad as the trends are, you gotta admit: the stats makes sense when you consider most people just don’t get covenant.
But as crazy as it may sound, our notion of church is just as flawed.
Think about it.
Nowadays, the main reason people attend church is to hear a good sermon…to have the ear hairs tingle at the sound of spine-tingling truth. In response, church has been reduced to a quick pick-me-up at a convenience store, a pit-stop along our motor speedway life…
…or as Joe said, eating cereal, listening to an online sermon.
But truth is: church isn’t podcasting. Sure, can listening to an online sermon qualify as effective quiet time? Absolutely.
But when we see ourselves through God’s filter…then we realize how we’re adopted sons and daughters into the family of God, a body of believers, intended to be a source of peace, comfort, and care.
Of course, this doesn’t mean everything will be all fine and dandy. No doubt, there will be times when we feel uncomfortable…and times we don’t immediately get along with another.
But if we’re doing relationships right, then we will experience tensions and conflicts. So when we find ourselves in an awkward situation, we must remember a) no one is perfect, b) isolation is never the answer and c) having a “home base” where we can be convicted of sin (even rebuked when necessary) is one of the greatest blessings in this life.
Just because you encounter a temporary relational road bump, doesn’t mean you have to withdraw from community.
‘Cause a) it’s not about you2 b) you’re part of the body (1 Corinthians 12), c) church is necessary to fulfill the Great Commission.
I know many have been ‘church hurt’ at some point in their life. Yet, this doesn’t entitle us to go rogue.3
I love what Joe says at the end of his vlog: “When you find a perfect church, don’t join it because you’ll ruin it and it’ll no longer be perfect.”
In other words, if you’re going to church not to get hurt, don’t bother going ‘cause church was never meant to be a ‘walking on eggshells’ experience.
After all, what sets the church apart is the fact we’re all aiming for something higher than anything this life has to offer. We’re all looking to anchor our hope in the same God. We’re all coming together to drink from the same fountain of grace.
If the Gospel “optionalized” our calling, then God’s message wouldn’t be one of love…and if God’s message didn’t require obedience to Himself, then we couldn’t experience the kind of personal, passionate devotion that comes with a real relationship with God.
Sure, we may admire, respect, and revere God, but we cannot love Him on our own. The only One who truly loves the Lord Jesus is the Holy Spirit, and it is He who has “poured out in our hearts” the very “love of God” (Romans 5:5). Whenever the Holy Spirit sees an opportunity to glorify Jesus through you, He will take your entire being and set you ablaze with glowing devotion to Jesus Christ.
But I’m telling you, friends, we shoot ourselves in the foot if we don’t position ourselves to receive…if we think personal growth can happen in a vacuum. Yes, we can encounter God individually, but we were never meant to walk alone. And that is why church is so important. It gives us community, accountability, a sacred place of prayer & worship, a place to increase our understanding…and a home to experience God in His glory.
In closing, I pray a blessing of peace and joy to saturate your life. May you be encouraged, challenged, and changed as you reflect on these truths.
1) From Beth Moore
2) I know we love to individual everything, but if we think the Bible was written to individuals, then we’ll read any passage on community with the wrong lens.
3) If we think we’re an exemption, then we risk pride in addition to isolation (not a good mix).
Photo credits: theracelessgospel.com
Photo credits: theracelessgospel.com
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