New Testament Community
JN 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another."
JN 17:20-23 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
The past four weeks we have been talking about what it looks like to live in Community with each other. I believe we all crave and desire a healthy church community that we can be part of. But, what does it look like? The TV shows we follow are about some form of community; people trying to find significance. Some place where they are respected, where they belong. We have Greys Anatomy, NCIS, Private Practice, Downton Abby, and so on. They all portray these communities where people seem so happy and when they do have struggles or fights, they always seem able to work them out (for the most part), and everyone accepts you.
Isn’t that what we all desire? People who care about us? People who are happy when we show up? People who will support us and stand by us in the bad times? People who will accept us instead of criticizing and judging us? People we can just be ourselves around? People who will listen to your joys and your sorrows and pray with you. I want that. I need that. And so do you. We all do.
Well, I’ve got terrific news for you. Good news and bad news. The bad news is that Greys Anatomy, and NCIS, and all the other TV versions of community are pretend. They exist only on a Hollywood sound stage. People love those shows; they tune in every week by the millions because they desperately want to be a part of that kind of community. They see something in those characters’ relationships with one another that they want. But it’s not real. The good news is that it can be real. The good news is that there is a place where that kind of community can and does exist. And that place is the body of Christ, the church (the people, not the building).
Or at least it should be. Let me put it another way. That’s the kind of place that the church should be, the kind of place the church can be, the kind of place that Jesus Christ intended His church to be. You and I know that too often, it’s just the opposite. We have to recognize that when many people think of an accepting, loving, supportive, place to be real, to just be themselves, they are more likely to think of an AA meeting or a bar, rather than a church.
Call me naive if you will, but I still believe it is possible to discover authentic New Testament community, and as we become, more and more, that kind of people through the power of the Holy Spirit; the world will notice. When they walk through that door or meet us at work, or at the grocery store, they will sense that something is different; when they go home, they’ll say, “I want that”. They will want what we have, and eventually we will be able to tell them that what we have isn’t a “what” at all. It’s not a philosophy, it’s not a religious dogma, it’s not a program of self-improvement; it’s not a “what,” it’s a “who”, Jesus Christ, living in us and through us. It all starts with Him.