Judges 21:24-25 The sons of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and each one of them went out from there to his inheritance. In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
In the book of Judges, you can read about the Israelites during the time after God had given them the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. This had to have been an incredibly exciting time to be an Israelite! With miracle after miracle, God made a way for them to live in and possess the land that He gave to their fathers, but which their fathers had rejected. In His mercy, He gave the nation, and this new generation, another chance to be the people He had called them to be; to be His nation of priests, showing the surrounding nations who He was.
The young nation eagerly obeyed God and Joshua as they took possession of the territory, and one might think this could be one of those happily-ever-after type stories. A powerful God who acted on their behalf, young and enthusiastic people, a beautiful land on which to build and establish themselves. However, this is not the story we read in Judges. Instead, what we find is downright depressing: a recounting of episode after episode of rejecting God and His law and chasing after the gods of their neighbors. They suffer the repercussions of leaving God, realize they made a terrible mistake and cry out for mercy. God is indeed merciful and sends a leader to save them from the bad guys. Then, after a little while, they forget how terrible it was and do the same stupid thing again! Its like watching reruns of a bad daytime soap opera! (not that I have EVER seen any of those
What on earth is going on here?! Why do they keep messing up and walking away from God? I went to back of the book of Judges and read the last two verses. I think there is an insight here that might shed some light on this question, an insight we cannot afford to miss.
I believe that a big part of Israels inability to stay true to God is found in their unwillingness to stay together in community. We might be tempted to be disgusted with these guys and turn up our nose at their repeated failure. But theres just one problem with this: As it turns out, WE may not be so different from these Israelites. Just like them, we have been called to be Gods hands and feet to this world. But
its hard to deal with people who arent exactly like me. I dont like getting offended, or offending other people. I dont like being patient and gracious all the time. And that is just what I have to be when Im with people. And I certainly dont like being told Im wrong! Its easier to maintain an arms-length distance between you and me so we never get close enough to annoy each other. In fact, it might be best to isolate altogether: Just me doing what I think is best.
The truth is that were all like this
at least a little bit.
What keeps us from community?
If its Gods plan for us to be together, what keeps us from doing it? Here are some seemingly good reasons for not being in the community God placed us in.
1) Past hurt or abuse by leaders.
2) Difficult relationships.
3) Other priorities. Family, kids, hobbies, etc.
Consequences of Isolation
1) Without anyone correcting us, we just do our own thing.
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Pr 14:12).
2) We get weird and, honestly, our theology goes south. (eg: Joseph Smith).
3) We become easy targets for the enemy of our souls to pick off. He doesnt care why youre not with the group.
What does the Bible say about being together?
1) The body: 1 Corinthians 12:4-27
Now you are Christs body, and individually members of it.
- The Spirit distributes gifts, talents and abilities how He sees best, but He is at work in and through all of us.
- The Holy Spirit baptizes each of us into the same body (community, family, assembly). And youre stuck there!
2) Its about love: Heres another reason to stay in community: John 13:34-35
-Its impossible to love someone Im not WITH.
How to live in community (1Co 12:15-26)
Three main components:
1) Relationship You cant do anything without relationship. I need to know and be known. I need to feel like people care about me and my life. I also need to care about other people.
2) Service Just like Israel was called to a purpose bigger than their individual selves (Gods nation of priests), so we are called to show Gods love to the world. Together, we can serve our family and larger communities far better than we can by ourselves. And its way more fun to serve with others!
3) Growth In the context of relationship and service, growth occurs. Accountability, friction, being stretched and submitting to each other in love WILL cause you to grow. If you are in relationships and/or service, but not being stretched or challenged, you need to expand your circle of relationship or serve more.
We cant just pick one and run with it. All three are necessary parts.
Each of us will have to find our own personal balance, but it will be a place that God calls you to, not one you pick because its comfortable!
Tips to make it go more smoothly:
1) Do not think of yourself as less important than another (1Co 12:15-16).
- Kidney, little toe, etc.
2) Do not think of yourself as more important than another (1Co 12:21-22).
Each member is as important as the next with each contributing and receiving in their own way.
Two men went up to pray
(Lk 18:10-14) When you think youre doing well, keep your pride in check! Youre no better than anyone else.
3) Be diligent to preserve the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-3).
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Be humble; be patient and gentle; deal with offenses quickly and in love.
4) Hold each other accountable (1Co 12:26).
It IS your role to hold your brother or sister accountable.
5) Care for each other (1Co 12:25).
Everyone has been, is currently, or will be in the near future, hurt and wounded.
As a family that God has put together, we are to care for one another.
6) Grow where youre planted (1Co 12:18).
Remember that God has you where you are for reasons you may not know (or
like). The hard things that make you want to leave could be the very things He is
using to help you mature.
Benefits of being in community
Friendship, support, a listening ear, a place to belong, a shoulder to cry on and a swift kick in the pants when we need it.
When we come to Christ, we are placed in a body of believers as the Holy Spirit sees fit. We do not have the option of being solo believers or lone rangers. We are supposed to be where He has us. The gifts and abilities you bring to the whole are unique and valuable and we are less without you! You are not complete on your own either. You need the rest of us to be a part of your life. It doesnt matter what your past is, or what your gifts and abilities are. If you belong to Jesus, you belong with me, in community. Here is where we learn how to care for each other. This is where we can become the individuals God had created us to be. And here is where we can pursue our collective calling to reach the world with the Gospel.