What’s community with others supposed to look like?
- The Pharisee says “everything is done for people to see” (Matthew 23:5). Community is about status and importance.” But the outside of the cup tries to look clean while the inside rots away. Performance is everything. There is no ‘community,’ only comparison and self-focus.
- The Religious Person says “if I do good things, God will accept me. If I do bad things, God will reject me. Community is about making sure I strive to do good to others so I can be accepted by God.” But inherent in making sure you do good is keeping extensive record of your actions. It is about striving, striving, striving to be better. We compare and judge ourselves with others. And judge others with ourselves. There is no altruistic good done to others, community is only a pursuit of divine favour for yourself.
- The Secular Humanist says “throw off the shackles of religion and declare your independence from traditional moral constraint. Community is about humans coming together to freely think.” But without a moral standard to look towards, there is no truly free-thinking. The lines between right and wrong become blurrier and blurrier until nothing is left but whatever fancies that particular person. The only common thread left is the one that says we all can define our own morality. But free will in this state quickly becomes bondage to our lesser instincts as we justify all sorts of behaviour. We become slaves to lust, pride, selfishness, etc. while maintaining the illusion of choice. Therefore, community is nothing but the enslaved self-interest of each person, multiplied.
All these perspectives end in self-centeredness, making for a very uncooperative community. Jesus tells us something different. He tells us the recipe for a community in the two greatest commandments:
Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” -Matthew 22:37-39 NLT
First, we are to love the Lord our God with all we’ve got. Not just theoretically ‘love’ Him. To accept His gift of grace through Jesus Christ- that you are fully and completely sanctified and made righteous in God’s sight. To dive deep into the depths of His love. To love Him who first loved us. More and more intimately each and every day.
Then we are to love others as ourselves. To serve them, to genuinely care for them. To be moved with compassion for them. To turn the focus away from self and toward others. After all, God loves others with a burning, unconditional passion just as much as he does for you or me.
When a group of people do this, it makes for a unique community. One that shines brilliantly with love. One that I’ve been exposed to recently. Let me give you some examples:
- As Haeli and I prepared to drive from Alberta to Missouri, we had the car inspected by a mechanic and a few important things repaired. This mechanic was recommended by my pastor as a God-fearing man with integrity (a blessing in itself). But after he repaired everything he did something shockingly kind- he didn’t charge any labour because he wanted to support us as we started our ministry.
- When driving from Missouri through North Carolina and then up towards Ontario to leave for Nepal, the car needed urgent repair on the front tire while we were stopped at a friend’s house for a night in Pennsylvania. The friends we were staying with connected us with another Christian mechanic and then they graciously offered to pay for everything. But once the repairs were done and I was waiting to pay, the mechanic just shook my hand and said “take your wife out for dinner, that’s my charge.”
- Throughout this whole process of mobilizing towards Nepal, we’ve been blessed countless times by encouraging words, prayers, and gifts. People have just poured out the love of Jesus onto us and our mission. The family and friends we have stayed with have been incredibly kind and hospitable. The churches we’ve gone into as one-time visitors on the way have encouraged and commissioned us out. The people we love back home have done the same.
We have been floored at the generosity, fellowship, and love with which people have poured into us, all because Jesus first poured into them. And here’s the craziest thing about it: it’s a cycle of blessings.
People we feel so blessed by look at us and tell us we have blessed them. Not even because of anything we have done, but because of the divinity in a Christ-centered community. The blessings go round and round. They are lovingly given and lovingly received.
It’s like nothing else. You can’t find this in secularism. You can’t find it in works-based religion. You can’t find this in self-centeredness (by its very nature). You can find acts of love and kindness by the world’s ever-changing standard, but you can’t find a whole community rooted in the infinite, unchanging love that is God and His grace. That’s not to say that Christians live that out perfectly. There are countless stories of hypocrisy and judgement from within the church. I admit it! I am a Christian and without Jesus I am a hypocrite, a pharisee, a religious fool, a secularist. But by the grace of God He picks us up when we fall if we allow Him to. God’s kindness brings us to repentance. His grace is magnified. We can have the same grace on our brothers and sisters. We can cooperate with one another with understanding because we are all victims of a fallen world.
So that’s what community is supposed to be like. And it’s just crazy. It’s not perfect because we’re not perfect people. But it’s awesome. I’ve lived the secular life. It’s unfulfilling and hollow. I’ve lived the works-based life. It’s exhausting and a waste of time. There’s no community in these worldviews. I don’t know why it took me so long to notice that there’s only community through God’s love but I know I don’t want anything else. Thank you, God, for designing a world in which we can choose to genuinely love each other because you have loved us. And thank you, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, for blessing out of that love.