Waste Time Wisely: Community
April 14, 2008 - Waste Time Wisely is a four-part series examining the spiritual disciplines of Jesus and exploring how we can partake in those disciplines in our own lives.
Life. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness. For those of us who live in America (or who have been brought up in the American sphere of influence), these three traits are synonymous with having a good life. We view them as our inalienable rights and often pursue them with great vigor and enthusiasm. And why not? Don't we all want to be happy? Shouldn't we desire liberty and freedom in all things? And aren't these characteristics what it takes to live a full life?
Perhaps. But maybe, just maybe, there's something a little more insidious going on when we, even as Christians, make these pursuits our ultimate goal. One of the outcomes of this chasing is that our faith eventually becomes very internalized and narrow. The Way becomes a one-man show. Well, a one-man and one-God show. It's me and Jesus. As long as He and I are cool, that's all that matters.
The trouble with this approach to the Christian life is that it doesn't take into account the full picture offered in Scripture. We are meant to have a one-on-one relationship with Jesus, it's true. I can't be saved through your faith in Christ any more than you can be saved through mine.
But we are supposed to pursue that relationship within the framework of a life lived in community. This concept runs throughout the Word, from the foundations of the Earth as know it to the first beginnings of the Church.
We see this thread of community throughout the Word from this point on. The salvation of Noah and his children from the flood, the blessing of descendants to Abraham, the calling of Israel as a nation...the list goes on and on. Take the formation of the Church in Acts. The image presented in Acts 2 is a profound picture of just how deep and important this idea of faith lived in community is to God.
Check out this description:
What a radical image! Community begins with gathering together and preaching the Gospel. But that's just the start; it doesn't end there. Apparently these early believers also ate together on a regular basis. They talked about what God had been teaching them. They shared their property, their possessions...all of it paled in comparison with the joy of fellowship together.
What would that community look like today? Oh sure, we have our church buildings and we have our Sunday services, but what would it look like to truly have "all things in common...sharing them with all as anyone might have need?" I have to admit that I'm not sure how that would function in today's world. We're so individualistic and focused on our own ends that it's tough to envision.
In a day and age characterized by the total pursuit of those American ideals, how powerful would it be to show our society a different way? There is something about the commitment and passion that those believers showed to each other and to God that would be earthshaking for our culture.
In fact, Jesus even promises it to us when He instructs, "As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). People will naturally be drawn to the love we show each other in community.
Read the passage from Acts again (this time from the Message) and meditate on how God might be calling you into a committed relationship with His community.
Let the warmth and joy of these words wash over your soul:
It takes practice and discipline to live together like this. It's not easy. We're broken people. There's stuff about me that would annoy you to no end if we hung out on a regular basis and I can guarantee that you've got quirks that would tick me off over time. But the grace of God and the moving of the Spirit completely overwhelm such petty things in the long run.
So how about it? How are you going to live in community with your brothers and sisters?
—by Jeremy Hunt