Community. It is the word that has driven my passion the past few years.
Community. Each of us craves a sense of belonging – to be known and loved for who we are.
Community. It’s what we were created for. Literally.
So why is true, authentic community so hard to find? Because community is hard work. It’s extremely messy. And sometimes it is easier to just….not.
Church, we are called to BE community, to be the example the rest of the world lives by. If we get it right, it will be beautifully attractive. After all, most people, especially millennials, are seeking a sense of authentic community. The fields are ripe for harvest (John 4:35)! Now is the time to be the community that Christ has called us to! Now is the time to be the community that the world needs.
We have to start getting this right!
When difficulties arise, when the messiness that comes with community starts to show, people walk away. It is happening everywhere! It is easier to leave than to work through the mess. But here is the truth: people are imperfect! You are not perfect. I am not perfect. ______(insert the name of anyone)________ is not perfect! And when imperfect people come together, there are bound to be issues. Sooner or later someone will get hurt, or offended, or left out. Maybe not intentionally….but, because we are all imperfect, it happens!
These are the moments that can define who we are as a church, as a family. These are the moments that make the difference. We can be like the rest of the world and give up on “community” at that point. We can walk away without handling the problem or issue biblically. Or we can push through, work through as God’s Word dictates, and come out as a stronger community on the other side.
This is a soap box I have been standing on for awhile. Recently, I was able to read the book, Accidental Pharisee by Larry Osborne (HIGHLY recommend). It challenged me and made me reevaluate a lot of the ways I behave. There is a section on Biblical unity where he put into words and images much better than I have tried to do on my own:
“Our biblical unity is a lot like the unity we experience in a family. When my kids were young and crammed into the back seat of our car, they didn’t always get along very well. At times they wanted to kill each other. At times I thought they might. But it didn’t matter. As I reminded them, they were stuck with each other. They had to learn to get along. They were united by birth, not by choice. And nothing was going to change that.
In the same way, if I’m saved and you’re saved (even if I think you barely snuck in), we’re family. It doesn’t matter if we don’t like each other, if we vehemently disagree… We’re stuck with each other. We have to learn to get along. We’re united by Jesus, not by choice. And nothing is going to change that.
Our biblical unity is rooted solely in our relationship with Jesus… It exists even when we wish it didn’t…
Unfortunately, when family members refuse to get along, it’s not just the squabbling siblings who suffer. The whole family suffers. It brings shame to the family name. It dishonors the parents. Think back to the last time you saw somebody else’s kids having a meltdown in the grocery aisle. My bet is that you didn’t think too highly of the children – or the parents. Even if your own kids have had their fair share of meltdowns in aisle 6, you probably walked away thankful that you weren’t part of that family.
The same thing happens in the spiritual realm. When the world sees us loving and bearing with one another, like the sons and daughters of God that we are, they’re drawn toward us. We gain credibility to speak into their lives. It reflects well on our heavenly Father. But when they see fisticuffs and shouting matches breaking out…they can’t help but wonder, ‘What kind of heavenly Father would have a family like that?’
It’s no wonder they’re not too interested in what we have to say about life, Jesus, or the salvation that we claim we have and that they so desperately need.”
When we choose to walk away instead of dealing with the hurt, the offense, or the problem – what does that do to the witness of the Church? When we choose to speak poorly of the church, of the people, we left behind – what does that do the credibility of the Gospel?
It isn’t about being right or wrong. It isn’t about you. It isn’t about me. It’s about family. It’s about the Good News!
If we are truly a church family, if we are the family of God – then we had better start acting like it. People are watching. And their very lives depend on it!!