My job requires a lot of interraction, and when I leave my job I yearn for time to myself. Sometimes, I admit, I seek more time with myself than I should. Much of this time alone I do spend with our Heavenly Father, which is a wonderful time. On Saturday, I spent time with fellow believers and it reminded me how important that is as well. I found this devotion that I want to share.
In order to learn about love, we need people. The concept of Christian community is such an important part of love, because it’s within the context of relationships that we have the opportunity to express and receive love. God is so creative, in that He gave us a body of believers as a way to experience the give-and-take of love, no matter what our “romantic” relationship-status. Here are some reasons why it’s really important to be in relationship with other believers:
1. Community challenges you to be more like Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-25). Nothing makes you more like Jesus than the daily grind of interactions with others. We often think about marriage when it comes to this refining process, but the truth is God also gives us community as a way to become more like him. God’s word reminds us that we are put in relationships in order to encourage one another in our pursuit of God and his Kingdom. It’s within the context of community that we are given the opportunity to be refined as followers of Christ.
2. Community meets practical needs (Acts 2:42-47). Just like in the early church, community is a place where we come to get our physical needs met. We need to learn to let down our walls and ask for help from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether we need someone to pick up medicine for us when we’re sick, cook us a meal at the end of a long week, or help us carry a financial burden – the body of Christ was made to support and love one another in practical ways. We can learn a lot about love within the exchange of practical needs.
3. Community carries you emotionally (Galatians 6:2). Just as important as physical needs are the emotional needs we carry through life. We are given the the responsibility to support each other in hard times, and to carry one another’s burdens. As much as we need to be available for our brothers and sisters in Christ, we also need to have the courage to ask them to come alongside of us when we’re the ones in need of support, prayer, or a shoulder to cry on. It’s important to learn to be real with one another, because that’s what true community is all about.
4. Community reveals your gifts and talents (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Two are better than one, because there is double the strength, double the stamina, and double the talents. Within the context of community we’re given the opportunity to discover our gifts and our talents, and to use them to bless others. We’re each given a very specific role in the body of Christ and it is within these relationships that our roles can be used to glorify God to the fullest. We’re part of something really special (1 Corinthians 12:27).
5. Community opens your eyes to the needs of others (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Within community we are encouraged to look around at the needs of those around us. We’re called to strengthen those who are weak and to and encourage those who are down and out. Community calls us out of our self-centeredness and self-absorption by giving us the responsibility to look outward.
6. Community empowers your relationship with God (Proverbs 27:17). There is something real about the concept of power in numbers. When we are surrounded by other believers, we feel empowered in our faith and may even be more sensitive to God’s presence in our lives. There’s something powerful about believers joining together, making each other accountable and being a sort of a witness of one another’s lives. We need people checking in on us, asking the hard questions, and challenging us to really live out our faith.
7. Community meets our need for love (Proverbs 17:17). There’s no denying that we are men and women who crave love. We were made to, by a relational God who longs for us to be in relationship with him. But even more amazing, is that God gives us the gift of each other as a way to meet our earthly needs for love. This brotherly love (phileo) that we’re given is a beautiful representation of the greatest Friend who laid down his life for us. We’re also called to love each other in this beautiful way.
8. Community offers opportunities for confession which leads to healing (James 5:16). There’s power in confession. It gives us the chance to bring to light the things that have been holding us back in darkness. Within community, we’re given the opportunity to get real with one another, to confess our sins, and to break free from the things that are holding us back from living God’s best life. True community requires transparency, authenticity, and confession.
9. Community teaches you to work through conflicts (1 Corinthians 1:10). Bring any group of people together and one thing is certain: conflict is inevitable. But we’re called to work through our divisions with one another as the body of believers. We’re asked to be a united body, which isn’t always easy, nor natural. It’s a humbling experience that teaches us to lay down our pride, to learn assertiveness, and to enhance our communication. We need each other, because it’s within the messiness of relationships with one other that we’re reminded of our desperate need for him.
10. Community gives you the chance to forgive (1 Peter 4:8-11). There is nothing more beautiful than the picture of the gospel displayed through our healthy interactions as a body of believers. Within this body we’re bound to get hurt, and then guaranteed the opportunity to forgive. We get to feel what Jesus felt as he suffered wounds at the hands of the people he loved, and then loved them anyway. This is the hardest part about community, but it’s the part that makes us most like him.
It’s time to recognize your God-ordained need for people, and then seek to build relationships with the people God has placed in your life. As you think through this list , ask yourself how much you’ve allowed your relationships with people to impact your life and your faith? What is holding you back?