Hello dear friends. Ian, from a chilly Sydney here. First day of winter and the southern part of Australia has got caught in a cold snap that’s come up from Antarctica. Brrr …
This is the final part in my little series on shifting our focus away from ourselves and setting it on Jesus.
We’ve often talked about the challenges in our situations of being active participants in a Christian community. For many years, in fact too many, I chose to minimise my engagement in Christian community. As a result, I didn’t develop any meaningful relationships with other believers. I was doing life with Jesus alone.
And it was hard work.
God’s a Community
God is communal in His very nature- three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we are formed in His image. We were made to be communal. Irrespective of whether we’re introverts and find greater enjoyment being by ourselves, the there is a deep yearning with us to become all we were made to be. This can only be realised with others. We limit ourselves, our relationship with God, and our families and friends, if we choose to walk alone.
In addition, the enemy loves those who are separated from the pack. We see it in the animal world. We become easier pickings if we are always walking alone. There’s no natural defensive barrier that being part of a group (even a small one) provides.
For a whole variety of reasons, many of us have been starved of love in our lives. As a result, we’ve never learnt how to receive it well. This often will reveal itself in us not really opening ourselves up to others because we’re unsure how we’ll be received. “What if they find out what I’m really like?” I discovered this in my own life. I had inadvertently ‘closed’ myself of from others. I wasn’t allowing others to love me.
For men this is often a challenge. The lone-wolf is so common amongst men. Yes, we connect with others on the surface about our jobs, sports and other things we do. But when it comes to sharing real ‘heart’ stuff we will often avoid it. To such extent that I know men who can’t really describe what’s going on inside. If we’ve never really shared emotionally or vulnerably before, it kinda gets harder and harder the older we get. Simply because we don’t know how.
One of the joys of a communal life is fostering a deep mutual connection. This can only be realised when both parties are willing to receive. A willingness to open up and allow others to love us, to teach us, be willing to sit at their feet and learn. This can involve moments of tremendous vulnerability. And learning to trust.
Sunday marks the ‘Day of Pentecost’ when the Holy Spirit descended on the early church as promised by Jesus before He ascended to heaven. After the incredible happened as the Holy Spirit arrived as described in Acts 2, we get a picture of the beauty of true community:
“And they devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:42-43)
The first church chose to do life together. Nothing has changed. The invitation is there for us too: to do life together. Yes, we have an added complication, don't we? The SUM life is challenging isn't it?
For a variety of reasons, I’ve found myself having stepped out of community. As church has physically returned, I’ve chosen to continue to attend online. And it’s really struck me that I’m kinda treading water. And it’s in being with others that I can move forward.
We’re invited into a God-breathed kind of life and to experience it with others.
Perhaps in the comments we can share our own experiences of joining with others, whether a handful or many, and how it compares to walking by oneself. And also, what particular challenges do each of us have in finding community or being able to participate in it. And what are some ways you've risen above the challenges.
Grace and peace, dear Sumites.