Being part of a community of people isnt easy. Sooner or later living in close proximity with others always produces friction. Either someone hurts our feelings or we hurt theirs. There will be some members who tend to stretch our patience and others who are so successful at what they do that being around them makes us feel inadequate. There are healthy communities and there are unhealthy communities. And the same is true in the family of God, and it isnt easy being part of His family either. Working together harmoniously as an interdependent team requires a real determination to learn to love one another. Admittedly, not everyone is willing to pay the price, but wherever people do, amazing things happen: lost people get saved, sick people get healed, addicted people get free, confused people find purpose, damaged relationships get restored and lonely people find a family.
The Bible says we can accomplish far more together than we can alone. This is why from Gods perspective its so very important that each of us chooses to do whatever we need to do to become a functioning part of His family
the community of His people
the Body of His Son, Jesus Christ. The moment we are born again the Holy Spirit automatically joins us to that family, yet in practice many find that serving with others is easier said than done. It can be hard to find people willing to form a community. Depending on my culture and family history I may lack the relational skills to get along with others. Or I may have a history where relationships have exploded so often that Ive withdrawn from others in despair and decided to love Jesus alone. But Gods community isnt for some and not for others. Its His plan for all His children. So lets take a fresh look today at the power of being part of His community, along with some of the attitudes well need in order to be a healthy part of that community for a long time.
Our new identity
From Gods perspective, when we are born-again we spiritually become citizens of a new community.
1 Corinthians 12:12, 13 -
baptized into one body
Ephesians 2:19 - So then you are no longer strangers and aliens but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of Gods household.
Depending on our culture and family history this incorporation requires greater or lesser amounts of change:
We cease to be independent.
We learn new and deeper social skills.
Our attention becomes otherly and outward.
We become familial in our thinking. We weep with those who weep, we rejoice with those who rejoice, we are part of a world-wide family.
Our calling (Eph 4:1-6, 11-13, 16)
Writing from his prison in Rome Paul exhorts the Ephesian church to live in true unified community, and then he lists four specific attitudes which are essential if that is to take place. Without suggesting in any way that his list is insufficient Ive added two more for clarification. If I am going to eagerly preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (v 3) then I must choose to relate to others with:
1) Humility: I am only one member among many (Ro 12:3-8)
2) Gentleness: putting aside self-assertiveness and self-interest and treating people with respect. Also keeping the heart free from malice and the desire for revenge (1Co 13:5).
3) Patience: willing to wait for weaker members (Dt 25:17, 18; Ex 17:8-16; 1Co 13:4 love suffers long)
4) Tolerance: patience with someone until the provocation is past
to bear oneself up
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
5) Submission: God has appointed humans to lead me (Heb 13:17)
All teams need leaders
6) Spiritual insight: recognizing how important the unity of the body is
Recognizing why the devil so viscously attacks our unity
so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (2Co 6:11)
Our spiritual benefits
There are at least six reasons why God places us into the community of His people:
1) Refining: God joins me into a family and makes me grow up in terms of my attitudes and relational skills.
This is essential for me to fulfill my calling. Many gifted people are held back because of poor relational skills.
This is essential for holiness. You and I have a Father who is very concerned about our character and begins to refine our character the moment we become born-again. (Ro 8:29; Heb 2:10, 11; 12:5-11).
2) Revelation: the most vivid revelation of Jesus to the world occurs when His people love one another (Jn 17:14-23).
3) Ministry: the full dimension of Jesus ministry cannot be expressed through one person, it takes a body with many members, each part working in harmony with the others (Eph 4:13-16; Ro 12:3-8).
4) Safety: when hard times come, either personally or as a nation, God stretches our hearts to care for people who are not our blood relatives as though they were (Ac 2:41-47, koinonia; 4:32-37).
We face hardship together (food, clothes, housing, coaching, prayer
We raise our families together (single moms needing godly male influence for their children, etc.).
5) Sustenance: Every disciple must be constantly nourished to stay strong and grow into the calling God has for him or her. There are several essential elements: bread (Word), wine (worship), prayer (Ac 2:42). While it is possible to do these things alone, not even Jesus wanted to (Mt 26:36-46). They are best done in community.
From community into ministry and then back into community. This rhythm is essential for longevity.
Our nation has, since its founding, had a strong culture of independence. We are self-motivated, self-reliant people. We arent usually raised with a respect for history, family or regional identity, particularly here in the west. One of the refreshing things we find when we go on a mission to other countries is that these qualities are still strong in some places. So this particular message, that God is drawing us into genuine, living community is not an easy one for us to hear, yet as weve seen from Gods Word it is a treasure we must pursue.
Each of us must ask ourselves:
1) What step does God want me to take to become a fully-functioning part of His community?
2) Are there attitudes in me that hinder this (Eph 4:1-3)? Am I willing to work on this and grow?
3) Am I waiting for others to reach out to me? Will I reject passivity and step out to help create community?
4) Has my own ministry and calling been hindered by an isolated lifestyle?
1) Read Acts 2:37-47. What did these believers do when they gathered together? How often did they gather? Where did they gather?
2) There are often personal obstacles to overcome before we can enter into long-term relationships with others. What obstacles challenge you (fear of rejection, lack of available time, painful past experiences, impatience, low sense of personal need for community
3) Have you personally experienced true Christian community? Tell us how it affected you?