No Man is an Island-Part 2

In the previous post on this topic, we saw that God very much expects us to have genuine and substantial relationships with other Christians. Or, to put it more succinctly, he expects us to live in real community with one another.

But why do you suppose that is the case? Why does God want us to pursue a life that’s intentionally and meaningfully connected with others who follow Christ? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but let me just quickly mention a few.

First, the kind of genuine community we’re talking about helps us deal with the challenges and suffering that we sometimes undergo in our lives. Remember the passage from Ecclesiastes 4 that we looked at previously:

10 If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

And Paul gives the Galatians this command:

Gal 6:2: Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

We all experience difficulties in our lives, and it’s essential that we have people that can come alongside and help us to deal with them. You might say we need people to be “God in the flesh” to us, providing for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in a manner that is consistent with God’s truth and motivated by his promises.

And so the relevant question for all of us is this: do you have people close at hand in your life that will rally around you in a God-pleasing way during a time of need?

Secondly, meaningful Christian relationships help us fight sin in our lives. The book of Hebrews says this:

Heb. 3:12: See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

And the apostle Paul tells the Galatians,

6:1: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.

Simply put, the Bible doesn’t give us the opportunity to say, “I don’t want people in my business.” It actually commands it. No, we’re not supposed to point out every little thing in people’s lives. We’re certainly supposed to extend grace to one another. But there are times when we need to “speak the truth in love.” And that will sometimes mean having hard conversations, conversations where we point out sin and encourage each other to turn back to the right path of following and trusting Christ.

So again, here’s a question or two to think about: do you have relationships with people who are near to you—people who are trusting Christ and who see your life on a regular basis—who you’re willing to let speak into your life about your sin? Or do you wall yourself off and/or get defensive when someone tries to talk to you about your sin? Who is a Christian friend who would say, “Yes, he’d let me confront him, and at the end of the day he’d be glad I did”?

Third, you need to be in substantial relationships with Christians because God has gifted and equipped you to serve them. The Bible describes the relationship between those who follow Christ with the image of a body, where all the parts are connected to him as the head, but yet are dependent upon one another.

Paul puts it this way:

Ephesians 5:15: …we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Of course, we all know if one body part is missing or not working properly, the whole body suffers (see 1 Corinthians 12). For example, if you sprain your ankle, the rest of your body’s ability to play basketball will be severely impeded.

So the point is this: if you belong to Christ, you’re a part of the body and you have a role to play. Because Christ is empowering you, you’ve got something to bring to the table that other people need for their encouragement and growth. If you fail to do so, however, they will suffer loss.

That is why, for example, we state that meaningful membership at The Crossing entails serving in some way—ideally in a way you enjoy and are gifted for, whether that’s teaching kids’ classes, making coffee, parking cars, participating in the worship team, greeting others, visiting people in the hospital, mowing the grass, counseling those in need, leading small group Bible studies, stuffing envelopes, and so on.

Christianity is not a spectator sport. All of us should be serving other Christians. They have a need what you have to offer. So the practical question in this case becomes, “Where am I serving the body of Christ?”

Having noted these three reasons for participating in community, let me begin to bring this post to a close by also saying this: there are definite obstacles in developing these kinds of relationships. We have to be willing to be open and vulnerable with our lives—that means giving people the opportunity to disappoint or even hurt us. We also have to be wiling to invest significant time. These kinds of relationships usually don’t develop overnight. And because of these obstacles, it’s easy to think, “I don’t really want to put forth the effort. I don’t want to be hurt and I don’t want to give up the time.”

My response: that’s tough. Yes, you may feel that way, but this is a huge priority from God’s standpoint. He’s aware of the difficulties and he wants us to do it anyway. And that, at the end of the day, simply trumps your feelings on the matter.

But I’m not just suggesting that you suck it up and commit to deeper relationships. Instead, I want to remind you of one last important fact: the ultimate reason God wants us to live in meaningful community with one another is that it will encourage all of us to trust in and follow Christ. And that, the Bible promises, is the place where we will find the most joy and satisfaction and fulfillment in our lives. That is something we can bank on.

So what will it be in your life? Will you cling to a life of impoverished isolation, or intentionally embrace the grace of genuine Christian community?

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