I have a couple of friends, and I mean a literal friends. I’m not somehow disguising myself in this. Although, I definitely see myself in them at times. These friends have been battered and bruised their entire lives. The miracle of their lives might just be that they still have their lives. I used to talk to these women a lot until they began to sink deeper and deeper inside the prison of their own minds. This has really gotten me down. As a part of their community, I can’t help but hurt when I know they are hurting. Take caution when you do life with others. It might just hurt a bit.
Everybody Hurts (Sing the song if you wish).
In thinking of this concept of community, I’ve begun to realize a few things. First, when one person in a community hurts, the entire community feels the pain. And that is how it should be. Galatians 6:2 says that we are to carry one another’s burdens and that in doing this we fulfill the law of Christ. That’s a pretty serious statement. The contrary to that would be that if we don’t carry each other’s burdens then we are not fulfilling Christ’s law. Simple enough to write, but it definitely hits me where it hurts. For most of my life, it’s been pretty easy for me to just write people off. Essentially the way I used to see it was, “You hurt me, we’re through…done.” Christ has changed my heart in this matter, because mercifully He has never written me off. And I’ve hurt him countless times.
Snatch ’em up
The second thing I’ve noticed is that no one is too far gone. When it comes to some of my unsaved friends, there have been times when I wanted to just give up; to throw in the towel. Will they ever see that Jesus is their answer? Kris Kilgore spoke briefly on this on Sunday, and it really convicted my heart. In Jude 22-23 states:
“Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear–hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”
The imagery Kris used was that of a person literally with toes in the fire, the smell of burning flesh, being snatch up and out of the fire. How far gone do you think the person is whose toes are already in the fire? I think it’s pretty far. Yet there is still hope! Don’t ever give up and lose heart! The beauty of community is that we can kind of commiserate together when we are frustrated and burned out.
Fill ‘Er Up
Finally, something that makes community so special is that it helps you get out of your own head and hear the thoughts of others and the thoughts of God Himself. It’s incredibly easy to alienate yourself from community, especially when you’re hurting. Sometimes it’s painful to share your heart and life with others. But here is the alternative: You can live alone with your own thoughts day in and day out. I don’t know about you, but when I talk to myself, it’s not always pretty. The easiest way for the evil one to get to me is through my own mind. When I isolate myself from my faith community, I literally give evil an open door to speak to my heart. You have to surround yourself with people who are filling you up and that you can also help to fill up.
The early church is a fantastic example of this. In Act 2:42-47, Paul writes:
“They [the Church] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
There are a few things to point out in this passage. First, how many times does this passage use the word, “together”? Three times in such a short paragraph. It is imperative to our mental, emotional, and spiritual health that we are together.
Second, they devoted themselves to learning what the apostles were teaching and to eating together. Does that sound like something you’re a part of now? At Hope Fellowship, we have some great home groups, where you can see this part of scripture being fulfilled. If you’re not in one, now is the time to get in one.
Next, “the believers were together and had everything in common” (vs. 44). I’m not so sure this is something the Church does very well. At times, it seems that we have very little in common. I do believe, however, that this is possible. Jesus is and must always be the common denominator! Everything else is secondary.
Finally, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved”. Could it be that salvation comes from being in community and doing life with other people? I think this is absolutely true. I’ve seen this with my own eyes. I’ve done street evangelism before, and I’m not sure what the lasting impact of that was. But I’ve seen the lasting impact of giving myself and my life to people who are pre-believers. There is a bond created there that is unbreakable. True friendships are formed there, and Jesus gets the ultimate glory.
In conclusion, I realize that living in community requires us to be vulnerable and to let others get a glimpse of our dark hearts. But unless the shell around our dark hearts is broken, how can light ever penetrate? The most joy in life comes from the beautiful friendships that He gives us through community.
If you want to read more about this topic, there is a wonderful book written by Jason C. Dukes called Live Sent: You Are a Letter. You can buy it on amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Live-Sent-You-Are-Letter/dp/1596693150/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1327422956&sr=8-1 or I’d be happy to let you borrow it. 😉