Community: God's Gift of Each Other

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We just got back from one of my best college buddies’ wedding in Alabama. It was great to get back to the place I called home for four years and have some great southern food, including deep fried cheeseburgers at the Busy Bee in Cullman.

The wedding and the festivities leading up to it were wonderful and I am so pleased that my friend has found his helpmate. The gift of marriage is always such a sweet thing to witness because it is a reflection of Christ’s love for the Church (Ephesians 5). But even the best of marriages is only a shadow of the love that Jesus has for the brethren. I am so thankful that God has given me a wife to love and more importantly to make me more like Jesus. In marriage we get to practice (and often fail) at being selfless, forgiving, sacrificial, and as Romans 10 says, to “outdo each other in love”. The binding of two souls to the Lord results in a beautiful refining process that God uses to bring glory to Himself. Now, that doesn’t mean it is always easy; refining takes heat, and heat is always hot. The trials and hardships are what cause us to lean into the Lord and become more like Him. Marriage is but one way we were designed to walk through life together.

When God came and rescued me and opened my eyes to the Gospel, He did it through a guys Bible study group at church—my Biblical community at the time. The Lord called me to salvation through the reading of His word with other men. Over the years, many of these guys have remained my closest friends and we have seen each other through some storms. Before we had kids, it was a lot easier to find the time to get together, pray, have Bible study, and hold each other accountable. It has become a challenge in the last year but I know that it is something worth fighting for.

But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
— 1 Corinthians 12:24-27

Different members of the Body require each other to function properly. We are not meant to walk through life alone. There is protection in groups of people who care for each other in brotherly love. As I mentioned earlier, living in Biblical community has become harder for Briana and I since we got back from Austin. Life has happened and between having children, living outside of town, and other factors, the Biblical community we used to have has fallen to the wayside. Life changes cause upheaval and tumult so it really isn’t anyone’s fault that this happened, but it is something that we must return to. It is a very vulnerable position to be in because the enemy loves to try to pick off isolated Christians. As much as I hate to admit it, I increasingly feel the void where we used to take up arms and fight the good fight together. 

I really began to notice this last week when our Sunday school class decided to fast together for our friends that are missionaries in Kenya. I was praying to God for them to find a group of people that they could walk through trials and celebrate victories with—a group to encourage them and stir their affections for the Lord. At that point I realized that I myself was not engaged in a group like that. To my brothers who are reading this, I pray you don’t misunderstand me, I know you are still as much my brother as ever, but I have slipped into complacency and fallen into trap of a life too busy for deep Christian relationships and growth.  I want it back. I want to read the word together, marvel in the Lord, go around the room praying for the man to my right, and truly walk with people in good and bad times. I have tasted of the goodness of Biblical community and I find it so life-giving that I want to literally live in it.

Our friends on the streets are experiencing a loneliness that we can’t even fathom. Sometimes days go by that they don’t even get to talk to anyone. I cannot imagine the demons in their head that tell them that they are worthless and that God doesn’t care about them, and there is nobody to remind them of God’s glorious promises. Even if they have the living hope of Christ, the isolation they exist in is ripe for enemy attacks.  What option do they have for getting “plugged in” to community? Sure they could walk into one of the large church building on Sunday but the likelihood of them settling into a small group and being discipled is pretty slim. Friends – they need us, and we need them. If you want to hear about a living hope that cannot be extinguished, talk to a brother on the street that has lost everything but his salvation.

Living among the formerly homeless at Community First!, we saw God’s beautiful redemption and restoration all around us. Anywhere we looked were brothers and sisters ready and willing to bear each other’s burdens. If I had a bad day, my friends noticed and sought to comfort me. We both celebrated and wept together. I submit to you that this is how God intends us to live. We ought to love one another so well that the lost will desire the goodness we share. This can only happen within Biblical community. I have experienced rich seasons of strong community and am praying for another.

 

Prayer Requests:

·      Continued prayer for our unborn niece and her parents

·      Our new homeless friend Josh who heard the Gospel for the first time today.

·      Land for our village

·      An awakening of the Church

·      Community