I’ve been meditating on the verses below these past few weeks.
John 13:35 – By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Matthew 12:47-50 – Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
I used to think Christian community/the church was the by-product of people joining together to serve a shared vision. For example, in a cricket club people join to play, watch and/or score games of cricket. Friendships are formed as these people pursue an enjoyment of cricket together. Until a few weeks ago I used to think the church was like this. We joined together to serve the vision of building God’s kingdom and loving Jesus together. Out of shared vision we built friendships. However, as I’ve been meditating on the verses above and received input from a friend and listened to a well known Bible teacher (Jeff Vanderstelt) on the subject I’ve begun to realise that Christian community as Jesus defined it and called us to is much more profound than a cricket club.
That may sound like common sense but for me it’s a newly forming revelation. If the church is like a cricket club then we can simply leave one church and join a new one when a church’s vision or leadership changes or we find there’s no one we have much in common with anymore. Yet in Matthew 12, Jesus explains that His disciples were a family closer than His biological family. He said His followers were actually His real brothers, sisters and mother. That should lead one to question whether church hopping is actually biblical. That should lead one to question whether we can just pick and choose a church based on our own needs and desires. As I’ve meditated on Matthew 12 I’ve felt the Lord challenging me with the idea that He has a particular body of believers for each of us to belong to and though it may seem we don’t receive what we need in that body He has a good reason for us being there.
The teacher I referenced above said this stunning sentence, “When I have to be with a community of people long enough my need for the gospel shows up.” In other words, when I live in close community my brokenness that comes to the surface causes me to realise I need Jesus. That’s stunning and so true. It means God can’t call me to the depth of relationship with Him He desires except when I’m living in community.
It also got me thinking about John 13:35. The essence of what Jesus explains here is this: the quality of our relationship with God is displayed in the quality of our community together. He’s implying that our witness to the world is not primarily our words or our works of justice or our extravagant giving, it’s the quality of our love for one another. That means the church is definitely, definitely not a cricket club.
The thought now forming in my mind is: being part of a Christian body is pretty much a commandment by Jesus isn’t it? And then tonight in the prayer room I’ve been looking up some of the ‘One Another’s’ through the NT. Here they are:
James 5:16 – Pray for one another, confess your trespasses to one another
Hebrews 3:13 – exhort one another daily
1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 – comfort each other, edify (build up) one another
John 13:34, 35 – Love one another
Romans 12:10 – Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, give preference to one another
Galatians 5:13 – Serve one another
Colossians 3:12-13 – Bear with one another, forgive one another.
Ephesians 5:19-21 – Submit to one another
Hebrews 10:24 – Spur one another on
1 Peter 4:8-9 – have fervent love for one another, be hospitable to one another
All in all this study has led me to a few conclusions:
- Christian communities/churches are called to be families with ties to one another perhaps even stronger than biological families
- God sets His people in community and it’s not negotiable. To not live in Christian community is to miss out on part of the gospel God wants to display to the world through you.
- Leaving the Christ-following community (if they are not following Jesus then this is another story) God has called you to be a part of is up to His call and direction.
- Community is messy like family is messy. But we’re called to search out the depth of the gospel in the midst of the mess.