Strangely, the idea of living in community with other believers can be both exciting and frightening for Christians. On the one hand, we long for people to understand us, to care for us, and to faithfully walk with us through the highs and lows of life. We enjoy true, good friendships and long for our churches to feel more like families than social clubs.
On the other hand, we bristle at the thought of people getting involved in our messes.
We want them to be a part of our lives, but only up to a certain point. Certainly, we don't want them to know our weaknesses, see our faults, or - heaven forbid - be the ones to kindly point them out to us.
We want good friends, but in our minds "good friends" are those who think highly of us, who will further our cause, and who will meet our needs.
We don't typically go out of our way to find people who need us. We don't make a point of spending time with those people whose personalities grate against our own. We don't naturally seek to build bridges between strange (to us) cultures and our own.
Rather, we naturally search for a group of people who look like us, sound like us, and behave like us, and then enjoy our artificial "unity" as we worship, learn about, and serve the Lord in ways that we are all comfortable with.
We like this group of friends who are just like us, partly because we all have a similar understanding of what the boundaries are.
Yes, we've all politely decided that our friendships should go "deep," but not quite to the point where the digging hurts. When it begins to hurt and things get awkward, we will all kindly pull back a little until time has had a chance to fill in the wound.
Or we'll just find other friends who don't require so much work.
We long for something bigger - something that resembles the sweetness of genuine fellowship and unity between believers in the Bible - and yet, we find it difficult to abandon the "safe" boundaries we've set between us and the rest of our brethren.
We have lives to live, after all! We've got to work, take care of our families, and make time for ourselves... it seems all but impossible to add the needs and struggles of our church family into the mix. Going out of our way to know and understand and love people who are different than us as well?
Well that's just above and beyond!
What is the cure for this?
How can I push my soul into a deeper and harder form of friendship - a fellowship between believers that relies upon the gospel of Jesus rather than a similar skin tone, a comparable income, or shared interests? How can I remove the self-serving motivations I have for friendships and replace them with a Christ-like love that dies for others.
I must reorient myself.
Because every single day I wake up thinking that the world revolves around me when it revolves around the Son.
I must challenge my mind to see all of life through the one great story that has been unfolding throughout history - the story that causes all creation and all people from all nations to glorify and magnify the holy Christ.
I must see myself as one tiny, blessed player in God's perfect and marvelous plan - a player who has been carefully set in this time and in this place to serve him and glorify him in specific ways, and with specific people.
I must see myself as one who has been called out of the darkness and into the light.
And in the light, I see a vast multitude of blood-drenched saints surrounding me.
Yes, on every side there are people from all nations, all cities, all neighborhoods, all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all incomes, and with all different kinds of personalities, talents, and shortcomings who have likewise been called out of their former ways and into Christ's holiness. People who don't deserve God's love anymore than I do, but who have been given the gift of grace.
All around me are my brothers and sisters - we are all adopted siblings who've been made a part of God's family.
I see that in choosing each of us for himself, he has chosen each of us for one another.
With this mindset, I cannot look at another believer and be ambivalent to them. I must be concerned for them, I must love them, I must care about their well-being because they are united to my Savior, and thus they are united to me.
We are a part of one body, and no one has ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it.
All of us, are called to live in this unifying reality together.
We were not merely saved into a personal relationship with Jesus. No we were saved into so much more!
We're not meant to enjoy and serve Christ in isolation. We're not meant to struggle and toil alone. We're not meant to fight this epic battle of faith as lone, terrified soldiers, but as a part of a mighty, Holy Spirit-empowered army!
We've been saved to experience the glories of true communion - Communion with God and communion with my fellow man. A communion that is free from the barriers of sin and guilt and shame.
As we see other Christians in our cities, in our churches, or on the news, let us not see them merely as people who've made a similar mental assent to Jesus' gospel, but as family members whom we are eternally bound to through the precious blood of our Savior.
Father, will you grant me the humility and the courage and the diligence to step out of my comfort zone and enjoy the glorious family you have adopted me into. Would you give me a genuine love for all the brethren - the same love that you have had for your Son since eternity past and the same love that he so graciously spilled out upon us at the cross. Help me to do the hard work of cultivating the seeds of friendship, so that I might enjoy the fruit of heavenly fellowships that are ripe with the Spirit's blessings.
In Christ's name, Amen