Focusing on John 14:1-6 Pastor John preached about how Jesus is the way. Jesus was talking about going to Heaven with the Father; but He was leaving the people with Holy Spirit. Thomas knew this because he sat under the teaching of Jesus. But when faced with the reality of Jesus physically leaving, he was blinded by anxiety and couldn’t see this truth. As he wondered how he could get to where Jesus was going, Jesus reassured Him that He Himself was the way to the Father.
The only difference between us and Thomas is that Thomas had his encounters with Jesus and his anxieties made public. We all experience moments like he did, despite what we’ve learned and experienced from God. When trouble hits, we too can be blinded by our anxieties; this sending us into doubt and confusion, where we begin looking for things to do or something tangible to hold onto, to prove that God hasn’t left us. Throughout the Bible are examples of people who went through the same thing. Trouble sparks that innate nature in humans to forget. It’s this element from the sermon that illuminated the need for Christian community to me.
Christian community provides a greater opportunity for sharing testimonies, Biblical teaching and encouragement. These things help us when we’re weak in our theology, faith or even when we’re in sin. We need people to correct us, guide us and build us up in the Lord. The body of Christ is able to do this for one another, because we all have the Holy Spirit in us. God engages with people by using other people as vessels.
Thomas was corrected by Jesus directly as He was still physically present. However, today Jesus isn’t on earth; so the Holy Spirit will do that correcting and sometimes He’ll do that through other people. Not just correcting, but encouraging, guiding and generally showing the love of God. He will do it through others to us and through us to others.
When we turn away from community, we reject this avenue that God has chosen. In other words, we prefer our ways over His and so walk in pride. Whatever the motivation, the intentional neglect of Christian community isn’t only unwise, but it’s sinful. It may sound over the top to call it sinful, but if God has told us through Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”, to decide to not do those things is to walk in sin.
When Ideals Are Far Off
What happens when community is hard to find?? When you don’t really ‘click’ with anyone in your church or there isn’t a structure whereby community can flourish amongst the congregation??? Is a person still in sin by not belonging to a community?
If you’re not neglecting to meet with other believers, but rather are struggling to find any to meet up with, that’s different. The issue there is perspective and access, not so much sin. That said, note that sin does distort perspective; so a wrong perspective can reflect sin deep down. There isn’t a blanket answer to all scenarios of people not being in community; but to help encourage a right perspective of community, I want to tell you some things that community is not:
Community is NOT:
- Always formal or structured.
- Only accessed amongst those in your church.
- Attending church service exclusively.
Christian community is a collection of Christians that intentionally come together on their journey of everyday life with God, in order to pursue and be present for relationships with one another. It is easier when people have a common ground and friendships form, or when there’s a structure in place to cultivate community. However, community can still exist and survive without those things.
When I was struggling to find community at one point, I decided to be intentional about meeting up with two Christian friends before church service at a local Starbucks for about 45 minutes. There was no structure to the meet-ups; but we’d always just end up talking about life and encouraging each other in Christ. As informal as it was, we had a community.
Community isn’t always going to be readily available, but you won’t get through this life without needing it because God hasn’t designed us to function independently of the body of Christ. So if you can’t find a community, create one. Create a solution.