the best and worst parts of the human experience happen with other people in community. Today we look at some of what the gospel says about this and how loving God starts to help us be better neighbors.
Psalm 22:1–2 (NIV)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
A Biblical Lens on Community (Lane/Tripp’s Outline)
1. You were made for community
2. In some way, all community is difficult
3. Each of us is tempted to make community the end rather than the means
4. There are no secrets that guarantee problem-free community
5. At some point you will wonder whether community is worth it
6. God keeps us in messy community for his redemptive purpose
7. The fact that our communities work as well as they do is a sure sign of grace
8. Scripture offers a clear hope for our community
As we talk about community this Summer, please keep in mind that our goal is to be as honest as the Bible is about community. If we succeed, this will be a map onto your experience. In addition to being honest, we hope to be as positive as the gospel is about the potential of community. This will give you the encouragement you need to tackle the rewarding but difficult work of redemptive community. If you wonder, Why bother? the answer is, “Because God did.”
When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.
The Bible shows that we are communal creatures, made to be lovers of God and of others. When it comes to humanity, God does not simply speak a word of command; he engages in conversation. “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). This conversation shows that God himself is a social rather than a solitary being. And so his image cannot be borne by an individual, but by man and woman together (Genesis 1:27). Genesis 2 underlines this as the writer tells us that the only thing in all creation that is not good is the man on his own (v. 18). Divine personhood is defined in relational terms. The Father is the Father because he has a Son. God is persons-in-community. Human personhood, too, is defined in relational terms. You can no more have a relationless person than you can have a childless mother or a parentless son. The trinitarian understanding of our humanity suggests we should define ourselves by the network of relationships in which we live: I am a father, husband, church member, child of God. This makes me unique (no one else shares the same matrix of relationships), but it also defines me in relation to other people. I am not autonomous. I am a person-in-community. I cannot be who I am without regard to other people.3 Into our pervasively individualistic worldview, we speak the gospel message of reconciliation, unity, and identity as the people of God. This is perhaps the most significant “culture gap” that the church has to bridge.
By becoming a Christian, I belong to God and I belong to my brothers and sisters. It is not that I belong to God and then make a decision to join a local church. My being in Christ means being in Christ with those others who are in Christ. This is my identity. This is our identity. To fail to live out our corporate identity in Christ is analogous to the act of adultery: we can be Christian and do it, but it is not what Christians should do. The loyalties of the new community supersede even the loyalties of biology (Matthew 10:34–37; Mark 3:31–35; Luke 11:27–28). If the church is the body of Christ, then we should not live as disembodied Christians. – Chester/Timmis