Six years ago, I wrote a post called “The blessings of community…” In that post, I wrote about a “going away party” that God used to show me the beauty in the diversity and unity of the brothers and sisters in Christ that he had placed in our lives. Looking back now, many of those people have moved away and are part of different communities. Today, our family is part of a different community of people also. But, in everything – in that early community and in the community we’re part of now – God continues to work and to move and to express his glory in the diversity and unity of his children.
Tonight, some friends of ours hosted a going away party for some other friends who are moving out of state tomorrow. The friends that are moving are part of the community of believers that God has placed around us. There are some within this community that we know better; there are some within the community that we do not know as well. But, God has placed us all together.
Within this group of believers, there are some who hold strongly to reformed theology, and there are some who do not. Among this community there are believers that hold to almost every form of eschatology. Some prefer more organization in the church, while others prefer less organization. We also hold to different beliefs about leadership and different philosophies of service. God has gifted some primarily to teach, others primarily to serve, others primarily to evangelize, other primarily to show hospitality.
We are a diverse group. And, when we discuss certain topics – especially those that we hold dear – we discuss them with passion and zeal. We are not so timid that we will not tell someone when we disagree with them. Some enjoy these types of discussions, and some do not.
However, tonight, as I looked around this diverse group, God reminded me of something. I saw a few people tossing a football in the backyard, while others played wiffleball. Several people stood on the back deck and talked about their week. Many sat around the living room and talked in small groups. Children ran around and in and out and up and down. Different people made their way to the grill to prepare their dinner.
But, as I looked around at this diverse group, I realized that this is a very special group of people. This is the community that God has placed me and my family in. I believe that I could pick up the phone, call any of these people about a problem that I’m having, and they would do whatever they could to help. I also believe that many would help without my asking. I don’t think they would do this for just me, but they would do whatever they could for each other. I know this is true, because I have seen it, and I have experienced it.
This group is special because we love one another. Is our love perfect? No. But, we talk about that and encourage each other in loving better as well. Sometimes, we get angry with one another. Occasionally, we fail to help one another like we should. We don’t always take care of one another. We’re not perfect. But, we love one another, and we always return to that love – a love that stems from God’s love which he is creating in us by his Spirit. We don’t love each other because we are so great. We love each other because God is so great, and because he is changing us and teaching us how to love him and one another more.
So, why did I write this blog? I didn’t write it to pat myself on the back, because I had nothing to do with creating this community. This is entirely a work of God. I did not write this to exalt this group of believers. We are all ordinary people who belong to an extraordinary God.
Why did I write this blog? I wrote this blog for two reasons. One, I wanted to praise God for what he is teaching me through this community. And, two, I want to encourage others who have not found this kind of community. Wait for God. Allow him to build something that neither you nor others can build on your own.
Finally, I pray for this community often. Not just for those who gathered at this going away party tonight. But, for others that God has placed around me. This also includes many that read and interact with me on this blog. This is my prayer for all of you:
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (Philemon 4-7 ESV)
Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, “Oh, thank you, God!” I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers. (Philemon 4-7 The Message)
I pray especially for those of you who are desperately seeking to live as community with other believers, but have not found that yet. May God grant your desire and strengthen you through it. And, may he grant you peace until that time.