Previously, in the first post of the Community series, we examined the awesome reality that the love between fellow Christian’s not only was a command from Christ, but was also a testimony to each one’s faith in Christ. In other words, living in community not only means loving our brothers and sisters in Christ, but also produces an evangelistic message. Incredible.
This post, therefore, begins the process of detailing the fabric of community. For that we begin with…
The Foundation of Community
As you consider community, it’s easy to think that it is based upon a relationship(s) you had in the past. For example, growing up you might have had a really close relationship with your siblings or friends, and that became your standard or litmus for all your relationships within community going forward. Or, the opposite might have happened, and you were hurt growing up in your relationships. Maybe you had a difficult season in high school or middle school, and you never really got comfortable letting people into your life relationally. Another example might be groups of friends or community you had in a later season of life–young adulthood, young marrieds, or at another church–and those experiences became the basis of your understanding community. Maybe you liked the structure of previous groups, maybe you liked the relational connectedness you felt with those other relationships, and then you naturally placed an expectation on all your groups or relationships going forward.
What’s happening in those cases above is that you’re building your foundational understanding of community on previous experiences. While that is helpful, it is NOT the starting point. So, what is the starting point to building your understanding of community?
That may seem too general, but it’s true nevertheless. God is the basis and foundation of community, and He is the launching pad from which you engage, initiate, and continue living in community.
What is it about God that we need to understand for community?
- God exists in three Persons, yet one Substance. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit–the Trinity.
- Each person within the Godhead is distinct, but they are nevertheless unified.
- Therefore, within the Persons of the Godhead there is the perfect picture of community: perfect love, perfect fellowship, and perfect unity.
- When God created mankind, He mysteriously privileged them with the dignified blessing of being made in the image of God, which consists of, but is not limited to: cultivating the ground, ruling over all things that move on the earth and sea, being fruitful and multiplying across the earth, and walking in fellowship, unity, and love with God and their fellow man.
- However, mankind failed by not trusting God, and as a result shattered their relationships with each other and with God.
- Nevertheless, God’s blessing and privelege of imaging Him–including, but not limited to: walking in unity, love, and fellowship with God and others–remains (albeit completely different than before…click HERE for more on those differences).
- Therefore, mankind is called to express–through their lives in relationships–the community intrinsically found within the Trinity–that is to say, man is to walk in fellowship, unity, and love with God (reconciled through faith in the person and work of Christ) and with others (as ministers of reconciliation).
Which takes us back full circle to Christ’s new commandment in John 13:34-35… “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
How Does This Apply To Us Today?
We express the image of God as we walk in unity, love, and fellowship with Him and with others. The problem is, however, this is not a desire or something that we naturally possess. Our natural expression is sin, which manifests itself in our inexorable love for self seen in our ambition for power, pleasure, and prestige.
And so, God had to enter our fray to make it possible for us to truly live in community with Him and with others. This condescension is ultimately seen in the person and work of God the Son–Jesus. As a result of the substitutionary and sacrificial work that Christ performed on mankind’s behalf, mankind is now able to enter into a right relationship–community–with God and others through FAITH in Christ. We, therefore, build all relationships within community–love, unity, and fellowship–on the basis of FAITH in the finished work of Christ.
In other words, if God can reconcile you–a sinful human who has turned on God and others whether in thought, word, or deed–then He can reconcile any broken human relationship and restore community no matter the hurt, the pain, and the suffering it has caused. How? Faith. Faith reconciles you to God, and faith reconciles and enables you to live out love, fellowship, and unity with others that you don’t naturally possess. You couldn’t reconcile yourself to God, thus you need faith. You can’t reconcile yourself to others, thus you need faith. Always faith.
Furthermore, God would never eternally break fellowship within the Triune Godhead. Therefore, what reason do we have to eternally break fellowship and choose not to live in community with others? You’re not a lone ranger and you’re not a maverick. Instead, you’re a needy person made to live in and express love, unity, and fellowship within community. What a challenge. What a high calling. God help us!
And so, within community, we forge our relationships on the basis of FAITH in the person and work of Christ (because we don’t possess the power to do it) that is built upon the foundation of the Triune Godhead (eternally and permanently expressing love, unity, and fellowship).
— January 19, 2018