There are many words in our language that are very important but often because of their importance they get overused and actually begin to lose meaning. This is true of “love,” “authentic,” and more recently “community.” Community is a buzzword in our culture and something being heralded as a core value on many a church website.
So, when we say community at Mill City, what do we mean?
In his writing to the Ephesians Paul says:
He [Christ] is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. (Ephesians 1:21-23 Message)
The community of faith is supernatural. This is an amazing mystery and not something we can fully wrap our heads around. The distinction of mystery keeps us from thinking that the community of faith is merely a Christian social club.
By calling it the Body of Christ, Paul is highlighting that it is not optional. It is called the Body of Christ on purpose. If we are to be associated with Jesus (the Head of the Church) then we are connected to one another in the Body. Our salvation is very personal but it is not private. By saying yes to Jesus we are saying yes to the family of God. Paul emphasizes this in the second chapter of his letter to the Ephesians.
You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home. (Ephesians 2:19-22 Message)
When we understand Christian community as a body we also must accept the fact that we need each other. Every part of a body needs the other parts. The leg needs the heart, and the heart needs the spleen, and the spleen needs the skull, and the skull needs the chromosomes, etc. The body is not fully itself unless it has all its parts. In a world that emphasizes individuality and personal strength this can be difficult to embrace. We don’t just need each other to help each move or give a ride to the airport but to be who we are full meant to become. Check out what Paul also says in Romans 15:5-6 (Message).
He [Jesus] didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it’s written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we’ll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus!
It is through community that we grow. That sounds wonderful…here is the problem. Community is not always easy! It is in this difficulty that we have an opportunity to mature and become more like Jesus. The work it takes to push through conflict, forgiveness and disappointment is the vehicle to this maturity. When we see the growth on the other side of the difficulty (i.e. facing our judgment towards others, dealing with our selfishness, laying our lives down) we can view community and everything that comes with it, as a gift. It may be a gift in ugly packaging, but it is a gift nonetheless.
As indicated in the above Scriptures, the love and commitment to the Body of Christ is a proclamation of the glory and presence of God, but it also says something else.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)
We communicate to whom we belong. We belong to Jesus, not ourselves!