Are you prepared to do what’s necessary within God’s definition of success?
In Ephesians, Paul describes that the gauge by which we should be measuring ourselves is whether or not we are good at remembering what God has done for us. We must remember that we were once separated from Christ, but we are no longer strangers or without hope. The mature Christian is someone who is able to quickly and deeply remember who we were and where we are going. It does not do us any good if we are only good at doing “church” once a week if we do not know how to build community outside those walls.
I. Remember that we’re designed for community
Paul uses the conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles to illustrate what it means to be part of a gospel community. The intense animosity between these two groups during Paul’s time spans across generations. But, Paul uses this conflict to express what happens when gospel community enters into the hearts of people. Communities are reoriented from a diverse people because when we experience Christ, radical grace becomes the foundational event in our lives. Our history, heritage, language, or race are no longer what identifies us. When we meet someone who has also been affected by Christ’s radical grace we have immediate commonality with them. We were designed to be united within a community marked by the grace that comes through Jesus Christ.
“We are united but different. We defer to one another but there is no hierarchy. We love without fear of being rejected. We serve people’s needs without being motivated to make sure our needs are met.”
II. Remember that there are distortions to community
We can easily bring our own assumptions into our communities which can create distortions because it misses God’s fullest intention for his people. Thus, we need to be aware of common inaccuracies that rob us of true community.
1. Community is Just Connection
When we make community only about connection it becomes a social networking platform based on convenience. If our goal is simply about connection, then it all falls apart when difficulties arise. There must be something that connects us more than what we have in common other than Christ.
2. Community as Counseling
Although community should be a place where we can be vulnerable, honest, and attempting to help one another through life’s struggles, it becomes a problem when we focus so much on these aspects that we only discuss our problems and forget to implement who Christ is in our lives.
3. Community is Just a Bible Study
Of course, we should be eager to learn more about Scripture. However, when a community becomes focused on transferring information rather than being transformed it becomes an issue.
4. Community Becomes a Clique
Cliques can occur when we have developed deep and intimate relationships with the people around us. We may not recognize it at first but this can lead to communities who turn their backs on newcomers because they lack the ability to immediately push people into the same level of camaraderie. We fail to allow newcomers in because we are more comfortable with those we are familiar with. If we alienate others in our communities then we are out of step with gospel community.
It is important to recognize that we cannot have gospel community without the first three aspects. We need connection, scripture study, and to work through sin. The problem comes when we substitute one or more of these aspects with the true unity that comes from access to God.
“Without Christ we would not know our brother nor could we come to know him because the way is blocked by our own ego”
III. Remember that we are redeemed to a new community
Before Christ came to reconcile all people to God, there was a time in which Gentiles could be killed if they tried to cross the threshold into the Jewish Temple where God’s presence rested. But Christ has brought peace between these two factions by tearing down the dividing wall and inviting all into a new community. Sin separates us from God and others which means we need access that only comes through Christ so that we can be part of the new community that he brings.
“It is not enough to be brought near to God, we need to be brought in.”