In the introductory post of this series, I explained that I was going to examine necessary ingredients for a group of people to become a church community as described by the authors of Scriptures. In the second post, I said that the first necessary ingredient is Jesus, not facts about Jesus, but the real, living, empowering person Jesus. In the third post, I said that Jesus must be the only basis for community, if the church desires to live as described in Scripture.
When I first began thinking about community, I did not think about it in this fashion. Instead, I started with things like “love one another”, “forgive one another”, “care for one another”, “serve one another”, “build up one another”, etc. etc. etc. These responses are very important, but I’ve since learned that they responses must follow in the correct order.
If we begin with the response (love, forgive, care, serve, etc), then we become responsible for the community, both building it and holding it together. The success or failure (or depth or superficiality) of the community depends upon our ability to properly respond to one another.
However, I’ve since understood that our community depends primarily on our response to Jesus Christ. The way that we respond to him (both individually and corporately) will shape the community (or lack of community) among the people that we know. In fact, that way that we respond to Jesus Christ directly impacts the way that we respond to one another.
Please understand this, because it is very important. If we do not respond to one another in love, forgiveness, care, service, or edification, it is because we are not responding to Jesus Christ in a manner that is worthy of him and the gospel. Thus, if we are not living in community with one another, it is a reflection of our fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Now, the responses are extremely important, but they are secondary to the primary source and foundation of community, which as I’ve said before is Jesus Christ. If we understand that the responses are secondary, then it helps us keep Jesus Christ as our focus. “Successes” will cause use to praise Jesus, and “failures” will cause us to turn back to him and cling to him even more.
So, where do the responses come from? They come from following Jesus. As we live in him (abide/dwell in him, walk in him) and he lives in and through us, then our responses become the responses of Jesus. Scripture certainly helps us to understand Jesus and how the early church responded to him. The Spirit also guides us into a way of life that honors God through Jesus Christ, and he empowers us to respond in a manner worthy of him.
With any group of people, there will be problems. There will be relational friction. There will be pain and hurts and a lack of trust. We will not be able to rely on our own ability to love, care, serve, forgive, or edify others. Instead, we must humble ourselves (die to ourselves) and continually turn back to Jesus Christ so that he can respond through us.