Self reliance is a wonderful thing, however God calls us as his body to grow beyond merely what we can do on our own. A good friend once put it something like, “If I can do it all myself, that means I am not doing enough. God wants more for the church than what I can do by myself. If I am doing it all myself I am not raising up leaders or making disciples.” To be the community God intended requires us to practice forgiveness and grace, take loving risks—and really—it requires truly a covenant, where we are truly committed to God and each other in service and sacrifice. The ties that bind us together in Christ, must become far stronger than those forces that would tear us apart.
Fear of legalism or abuse is very real, as many a personal experience of those who have left church behind could testify to… but I wonder at times how much greater the impact the church as a whole could have as salt and light to our society if we could reclaim a more “corporate” model of faith. We were never created to be alone, to feel isolated or to feel alienated. We were created to share love, and that seems to take more than one actor to be a lived reality. Love is a verb, an action word. Love, by its very nature, seems to require expression. It is a gift that cannot be kept under a basket, but must be shared.
Proverbs 27:6 says “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” And sometimes sharing love requires someone to love us enough to risk offering guidance and correction, not from a “holier than thou” place of judgment, but from a place of humility and love and freedom. I have recently had a few people show me this kind of love and for me, as awkward as it can be, it is also very freeing. It offers a place for the rubber to meet the road in my spiritual journey. It helps me to realize I have not “arrived” and still have a lot of room to grow along the path of Christ-likeness I am walking, but it also helps me see that I am not walking alone, that others care enough about my growth to invest time in me.
Somehow by God’s design, the human eye has a blind spot our brains tune out, right at the very center. We tune out that blind spot so well because we have two eyes, and many of us have long forgotten our blind spots exists and can’t even make themselves see it again. Community puts us in that place where inevitably we have to confront our blindness. It puts us in a place where we see the limits of ourselves and recognize that we need each other, that with more “eyes”—more spiritual gifts and talents—we better become the body of Christ come alive, and better become alert to the needs of our world. We each have our perspectives, our piece of the puzzle that is our part of God’s tapestry-like story of the redemption of the world. In the spiritual community the voiceless is voiced, the blindness finds its sight, as we find our place in the body and we discover our calling and where we thrive in service to the kingdom of God.
I know I am not perfect. I know I make mistakes. I know I need God’s grace. I know at times I need to stop and ask for forgiveness or offer it to others. And I know I am not alone in this reality that others are struggling in their own ways. And also, that they are finding victory in their own ways. I want to encourage you, as we enter this spring season, to think about the role community plays in your life, and the role you play in your church community. We all have our issues, our unique obstacles to overcome. We all have our unique mix of strengths, weaknesses… passions and drudgery. But to be the body of Christ, we need to learn to trust and rely on one another… we need to learn to work together as a team, and hold our pieces of the puzzle loosely in the face of God’s will being revealed to us.
Walking together means walking in vulnerability, humility, and ultimately freedom. But we can’t forget we make the path by walking together. In our holy nudgings toward discomfort and growth, we also gain a greater sense of God’s peace and a better understanding of ourselves. If I have learned anything as a disciple of Jesus it is that ignoring hard truths is a path leading only toward destruction and death, not the new life that God offers us. But I have also learned that Jesus IS present and active in community—in his body—and that where all our blind spots converse honestly, God not only gives grace; He gives freedom. “Those the Son sets free are free indeed,” but we each make the decision of how free we will let ourselves become. Often our fear of vulnerability robs us of the blessings God wants to give us. It robs us of the body, functioning fully as a body. It robs us of perhaps our best way of seeking the future; by doing it together.