COMMUNITY: FADS, FAILURES, & FORGIVENESS
Defining community is like trying to define the term hipster, everyone has their own definition. Just search the internet and you will see various meanings for what community is. The Stanford Social Innovation Review admitted that the meaning of community was complex. To be honest, there seems to be a community for everyone.
Communities range from meaningful to perceived relationships. Whatever the claimed community is, it seems to be seeking to offer an alternative to some other community, so that people will know that their community is the best. When you don’t like a particular community you can now just relocate to another one. No matter where you end up, there will be a day where someone will offend you because communities are filled with people, and since the beginning of time people have tended to hurt one another from time to time.
COMMUNITY IS MESSY
To be fair, I’m not against the term. In fact we have what we call Community Groups (CG’s) that meet throughout the week. Our CG’s have an objective and a purpose, and they are a place where relationships can be made and flourish. I hope they can be a place where people can belong and ask questions because they are open to skeptics and Christians alike. I don’t think we have the run of the market on community like a lot of Christians think they do. We do have deep convictions rooted in the Bible that reflect the person and work of Jesus, which if you know us, shouldn’t be a surprise. In the midst of this everyone-loves-community phenomenon someone has to cut through the noise and say community is hard and messy. People lie, commit adultery, act like idiots, and are often just plain lazy. None of these things are in the top 5 to-do’s for growing a healthy community but every community I’ve seen, religious or not, has dealt with the pangs of humanity. The community Jesus started was no different.
Among Jesus’ disciples there were fishermen, a tax-collector, a zealot, some biological bothers, and Judas the sell out. Imagine Jesus’ community group; filled with the crass fishermen, bickering between brothers, and dissension at practically every decision between Simon the Zealot and Levi the tax-collector because one hated the government and the other worked for the government. I imagine there were more arguments than handshakes and hugs combined. Then Judas, the friend who lies to your face, steals the organization’s money, and sells out its leader to be murdered. Perhaps even worse, when the authorities arrive to question Jesus’ disciples about the accusations made against their leader, everyone denies being a part of the organization and skips town. Yet, this is the same exact group of people Jesus chose to start the greatest movement in the history of the world.
COMMUNITY IS ABOUT JESUS
Jesus started his movement with a community of twelve rag-tag guys and now there are now over 2 billion people in the world who know, love, and follow Jesus. Like Him or not, Jesus is easily the most famous person in history. More songs have been sung to Him, artwork created of Him, and books written about Him than anyone who’s ever lived. Even our calendar is based off His life, dividing time before and after Him. Historian H. G. Wells says, “I am a historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”
The goal of Jesus’ community group was not friendship and fun, it was about Himself. Friends were definitely made and fun was definitely had, especially the wedding where Jesus kept the party going by turning water into wine. Friendship and fun were by-products of community being about Jesus. You can’t take the by-product and make it the reason why you do something and expect commitment and longevity. This offended people, and to this day it still does, because we’ve been brought up to believe the world is centered around us and making ourselves happy. Jesus enters time and history and tells everyone it’s about Him and they kill Him because they are selfish and sinful, but that is exactly why He came — to die for sinners.
Jesus assembled a band of messed up people all infected with the same virus we have, sin. Sin is pervasive and moves quickly. In Genesis 3 we see sin enter the world and then in Genesis 4 the first murder occurs in the first family that ever existed in the world. Sin separates mankind from the original intended fellowship with God who made them, and then ruins their personal relationships too. Sin entered the world through Adam but salvation comes though Jesus. Jesus’ objective was not to find a way to make people happy and content by creating a space for friendships and fun but to provide a remedy for the sin that caused all the brokenness in the first place. Jesus came to atone for sin and forgive sinners, giving mankind back their direct access to God through faith in Jesus. Now those who know and love Jesus not only have restored fellowship with the God who created them but also have the power to forgive, love, mend, and serve one another in the same manner Jesus did by the power of the Holy Spirit.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
Many people want community, but not many want a savior. Many people want to have friends and have fun but not many people want to forgive others. Mankind loves holding grudges, we love control, we love being right, and we love never being truly known by others so we can always have something to complain about. If we are honest, most of us really want life to be about us and not about others, and definitely not about Jesus. But praise God that while we were hell bent on our own destruction Jesus saw to it to intervene. I do believe mankind was made for community and that’s exactly why everyone is relentlessly seeking it out in some way, shape, or form.
Before we understand what it means to be made for community we must understand that we were made for a person. Mankind was made to know and love Jesus. We were created for fellowship in the holy community of the Trinity. Our relationships exist to reflect the eternal relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We were’t meant to do life alone, we were meant to do life with Jesus. What sin has broken, Jesus has reconciled. Apart from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, true satisfying community is not possible.
This is why when it comes to doing community we take Jesus’ approach. Community isn’t about fun and friendship but it is about knowing and making Jesus known. Our community groups will have fun, and by the grace of God lots of it, but what we are aiming at goes far beyond temporary satisfaction. Throughout the Bible we read that the more we know and love the God who made us the more abundant our happiness and pleasure will be. Like the psalmist says, “in [God’s] presence is the fullness of joy and at [His] right hand are pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11). We don’t just want to give people a night to remember or a friend for a season. We want to model Christ’s love and forgiveness when community gets messy, and point ourselves and others to an everlasting friend and an eternal joy; Jesus. “Community is for us a declaration of the overwhelming love of God, a tangible proclamation of the reconciling work of the cross” (Brad House, Community 34). We are not opposed to other types of communities but are also not trying to compete with them either. When we make Jesus the focal point anyone can belong in our groups. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners, and we hope you will be too.
Throughout the city, our Community Groups meet weekly, often to share a meal and talk about Jesus. You can find out more about our groups by clicking the link below.