Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Call to Christian Community

I wrote this little essay last year.

I am absolutely convinced that I would rather live life in the raging storm of community than in the dull solitude of myself. I would rather be subject to the flaming fires of people’s unmet expectations than to be merely thought of as a good person. I would rather be exposed as the bumbling, stumbling coward of a friend that I am than to be looked upon with respect from afar.

In these endeavors of community there is an inevitability to the fact that the true person will be revealed. Oh, and what a good thing this is! Especially for the white-washed, too-proud believer, who needs the sunlight of community to expose those glaring blotches of blackness in our souls. I am here speaking of the result which occurs from living and striving for a common purpose in Christ. For the common purpose of ministering in Christ’s name manifests itself in so many different ways, yet flows from a single source: the awesome love of God. We are each gifted with various habits of ministry which show forth God’s glory in multiple ways. But we are thereby united through the love of Christ, and it is to that great beachhead that we hold onto so dearly. For we would quickly disintegrate into the chaos we see all around us if it were not for this single unifying force.

Therefore in all our endeavors we must remember what pulls us back together at the end of the day. Our disagreements in style might seem large to us, but compared to the vastness of God’s love they are but small matters. We should each seek to serve Christ as He has called us, always looking to Him as our source and encouragement, and should employ grace in generous amounts to our brethren who are involved in the same great task. We remember through it all that we serve the God who redeems us through grace, not the work of our hands.

We should recognize, then, that while differences abound, God’s love seen through Christ unifies more perfectly than our differences separate. We should see it as an honor to be so sharpened by our fellow believers, and I do mean sharpened, because sharpening involves pain. To be sharpened is to be cut, to be formed, and to be thus refined. In losing ourselves we truly see the beauty of Christ’s strength being made perfect in our weakness. And when we are weakened, we can begin to live in the awesome power of God’s strength. This is the place where we have the power to forgive those people who have deeply hurt us. This is the place where we have the fortitude to keep running the Great Race when all our energies are spent. And this is the place where we are transformed as agents and enactors of beautiful grace, able to bring hope to a world lost in despair.

That is why it is so important that we take the call to Christian community so seriously. For in showing grace and mercy to our fellow brothers and sisters we are learning the great truths of God. We are active participants in transformational redemption through learning to live with and serve our community. We become more like Christ when we choose to love others in spite of their mistakes and shortcomings. We absolutely MUST learn to let the love of Christ so rattle the foundations of our hearts that we become steadfast in encouraging and forgiving our brothers and sisters.

Christ’s call is not to dive deeper into oneself, but to fall headlong into the raging current of Himself, where love and mercy persist. It is through these holy waters that we must pass in order to come out purified on the other side. Our hidden weaknesses and our glaring imperfections must be brought to light in order that Christ would redeem them; and He does! Through this amazing, wondrous process we find the strength to live in community. We find the strength to struggle through the difficulty of loving our brethren, and we find enough grace to live each day as it comes. The task of Christian community is hard, but more important than ever. Let us bow before our Almighty Father in Heaven as we attempt such an endeavor.

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