We Were Built for It (Part 1)
Last week we began to discuss community and the fact that we were built for it. This week we will dig into the idea of community and how it is meant to look in the Body of Christ.
If we as humans, created by God were meant for community then certainly Followers of Christ should be a picture of what community is supposed to look like. In a world where isolation and disunity is common place, the Body of Christ, as a whole and in individual churches, has a great opportunity to be a picture of unity and the way things ought to be. In fact, I believe we as Christ Followers are called to be a unifying force and to stand out from the rest of the world as a group of people who encourages each other and works together, even if we don’t look the same, go to the same church, vote for the same people, live in the same country or come from the same socioeconomic background. Paul says as much and tells us the reason why in Colossians 3:11 when he says, “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian. slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (NIV 1984). Despite our differences, we are united around one thing, a person, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. And what if we do function this way, as a body of people united around Jesus? I believe we live out Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 to be salt and light to a dying world. As Jesus states in Matthew chapter 5 verse 14, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (NIV 1984). Much like Christ, when we live in true community, we are counter cultural, but in a way that attracts the lost and causes people to ask why. In reality, we as Christ Followers fail at this many times and, instead of lifting each other up, we tear each other down and create division. Whether it is inside a church or ministry, or the relationship between different churches or ministries, frequently it appears that we are more in competition with each other than a unified body, all working together towards one goal, the glorification of God, and the redemption and restoration of the world. The great truth, however, is it doesn’t have to be this way. Despite our sin and brokenness, God offers redemption through Christ, both personally and as a group as a whole. If this is true, what is community in the body of Christ supposed to look like?
I believe the best places to turn when trying to get our heads around the idea of true community among Followers of Christ are Jesus at the final Passover meal with his disciples and the early church in Acts. In John 13 we can read the account of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and, as was common throughout Jesus’ time on earth, his performance of an act we never would have expected, the washing of the disciples feet. In doing this, Jesus was making himself a servant and demonstrating the way his followers should live and care for each. John 13:14-15 says, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (NIV 1984). As Christ Followers we are called to serve one another, even when it means lowering ourselves and setting aside our pride. I believe true community is found in being willing to “wash each other’s feet”. This could be in the church or ministry God has called you to, or it could mean serving a different church or ministry. When everyone is willing to be the “foot washer”, true community becomes a reality and lives are different because of it.
Another incredible picture of community is the early church. Looking at Acts 2, we can find a picture of unity and oneness that, I believe, God used to lead many people to Christ. In Acts chapter 2 verses 42 through 47 we read that they were devoted to each other, to understanding the truths of Christ, to caring for one another even if it meant selling their stuff, to eating together and, generally, to being unified as one body around the death and resurrection of Christ. Notice, it doesn’t say they did all of these things with the people they enjoyed being around. They were willing to put aside their difference because they understood that what they had in common, Jesus was greater than what made them different. I believe this is an incredibly important part of community. If we as Christ Followers are going to be a picture to the world of real community, we need to live like this, inside of churches and to the body as a whole. Imagine if the Body of Christ as a whole decided to come together and love and care for the way the first believers did in Acts 2. Would it be challenging and maybe even more challenging than it was in their day? Yes, I believe it would be, but I also believe it could change the world and, instead of more and more people becoming indifferent towards Christianity, we could see a reawakening and desire by those who don’t know Christ to be in a community like that.
This is a principle and vision we hope to project in Nicaragua. I believe if the Body of Christ in Nicaragua can unite there is a real opportunity for Nicaragua to be different. For this reason, we have strategically decided to work through churches and to assist them in impacting their community. Our hope is to assist the church in Nicaragua in giving their members a bigger picture of what God has for them and to unite the church as a whole around the concept of serving one another and lifting each other up. This is also true of other ministries in Nicaragua. We hope to look for opportunities to partner with other ministries to make a difference. It is in this true community that things can begin to change and the Body of Christ can begin to lift Nicaragua up, much like the early church did in their time.
So what about those outside of the Body of Christ? What does it look like for Christ Followers to bring community to a broken world? We will take a look at this next week.