My wife loves her boot camp buddies. Even though their workouts are at 5:30 in the morning, even though it is dark and cold at that hour, and even though their time together involves a significant amount of pain and effort, she loves being with them.
As much as we may value our rugged American individualism, the truth is that we were made for community. We see this in the Garden of Eden, where God declared that it was not good for man to dwell alone (Genesis 2:18). And we even see a picture of holy community in God himself (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The ideal of healthy community echoes throughout the pages of Scripture. Unfortunately, those pages also reveal the realities of broken relationships brought about by sin.
When we as believers, with our new lives in Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, seek out community with one other, we have the ability to overcome this brokenness and experience something that is truly divine. Not that it is easy to do so — in fact, the Scriptures are full of admonitions on how to treat one another that imply that our default mode of behavior might be quite the opposite:
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.
— Colossians 3:9
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
— Ephesians 4:32
…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
— Ephesians 4:1–3
It is this unity of the Spirit, this bond of peace that we seek in Christian community. Clearly, such community goes beyond a mere social gathering. It’s a spiritual uniting of hearts around the central purpose of exalting Jesus and living out our lives together in reverence for him.
Jesus himself recognized the power of this community when he said:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
— John 13:34–35
Genuine love is the goal — and the standard — for Christian community.
Like air to a bird or water to a fish, so is community to the believer. It is the medium through which we were meant to live. To really take off spiritually, we need the power of community lifting us up and pushing us forward in pursuit of the one who has called us to be in community with him.
Is it time for you to get out of your spiritual nest and put your wings to good use? If so, join a Community Group. You could always just keep walking along the ground by yourself, but you’ll find that sailing through the air with a flock of trusted friends is much more rewarding, for you and for them.
Are you ready to fly?