“Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our lives, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
What a beautiful picture of the gospel! Paul, Silas, and Timothy came to the Thessalonians promising not to compromise on the gospel message that was entrusted to them (v. 4). They refused to fall into any doctrinal error (v. 3). Their speech was not obsequious or motivated by personal gain. However, in the midst of sharing their message the apostles made sure to share themselves.
In reflecting on this passage I have come to understand a few things about genuine Christian community:
1. Christian community is gospel-centered. Christian community involves more than just gospel information but it does not involve less. There are plenty of groups to join if you want friends. You can find people that have similar interests (e.g., scrapbooking, MOPS, fantasy football). Shared interests, however, do not reinforce gospel community. The gospel breaks down external barriers. A gospel community is not concerned with external uniformity, but internal unity (Phil. 2:12-13) centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Most people are concerned with finding persons that look, think, feel, and act like them. People with similar interests and values will tend to confirm what you already believe. A gospel community is not bound by age, race, or political preference. A gospel community will challenge you to become like Christ rather than validate your own preferences.
“We often surround ourselves with the people we most want to live with, thus forming a club or clique, not a community. Anyone can form a club; it takes grace, shared vision, and hard work to form a community” (Philip Yancey)
2. Christian community is participatory. The information of the gospel was not enough; the apostles humbly participated in the lives of the Thessalonians. It was not enough to teach a few truths about Christ, their genuine affection motivated participation. Getting involved in someone’s life is messy. It is easier to show up on Sunday morning, sing a few songs, smile and shake hands. It is much more difficult to sit on someone’s couch and listen to their struggles. It is uncomfortable to go to the hospital when someone is sick. It is terribly inconvenient to give your money to someone who is in need.
And that brings us back to the gospel. Think about how messy it was for Christ to become flesh, to endure temptation, and to experience pain. Sharing your life with others provides the only context to genuinely articulate and, more importantly, demonstrate the gospel.
8 thoughts on “On Community – Shared Lives (Part 2)”
Although this applies to every facet of life, I, now, so often think of our context in student ministry. When I was a student, a sweet lady, who was a mother and grandmother, took the time to talk to me about Christ. That was an incredible gift in and of itself, but even more meaningful for me (as a 15 year old) was her willingness to share her time and her life to meet with me from time to time, listen to my struggles, and do fun things with me. She showed me what it looked like to love and worship the Lord on Sundays and every other day of the week.
I think that the problem that so many people (including myself) face in participating in other people’s lives is fear – fear of rejection, fear of not having the right words to say, fear of not being cool enough, fear of not having enough time. When you boil down the fear, it turns out that people choose not to participate in other people’s lives because they are selfish. Christ gave us everything He had to give, and we can not find 1 or 2 hours in our week to get involved in one person’s life. CRAZYNESS!
If you and Mgz keep this up, people are going to think that Bryan and I only communicate to our wives via blog comment threads!
p.s. — Good comments!
And would that be contrary to the central theme of our series on community?…
By the way, Mark – after reading Whitney’s comments, I’m beginning to wonder who is the most gifted writer in the family!
Well since I’m not married to any of you I’ll go ahead and throw in my two cents so it looks like this blog gets a lot of readership. 😉
(kidding, kidding…you guys are great)
I really love that Philip Yancey quote. It’s funny because my two best friends back home in Miami have nothing in common with me. They’re not really into the same music…they’re not really into art or design…their fashion sense is different… Yet, they’re my best friends and I love them. My husband would sometimes wonder how in the world we became friends at all, and I realized it’s because of Jesus. If it weren’t for Jesus I probably wouldn’t even know these amazing women.
And while I love hanging out with people who enjoy the same things I do, it’s nice to have relationships with people who are different. And it says a lot about the gospel.
I -LOVE- this:
“A gospel community will challenge you to become like Christ rather than validate your own preferences.”
Community to me has always been about people coming together and working together despite the differences. I love the diversity in people and often wonder where I fit in with some of the “groups” that I am a part of. For instance, I feel out of place with most of my colleagues in the middle school. There are very few Christians with whom I associate. Weekends for most means going to the bars on Friday nights to “drink away the stress of the week”. Having not a lot in common with your friends is not necessarily a bad thing. Thanks Kristel for your words on that subject. Mark, Whitney – others . . . continue sharing these pearls of wisdom with me. I enjoy reading them!
Mark. This is a great challenge and it blessed me so much. I am so glad that I checked this. Great way to share with others what God is doing in your life. Thanks.