Living in Imperfect Community
Belonging to a Christian community has been one of the most difficult yet profitable things I have ever done in my life. Through this community I have been both deeply wounded and wonderfully blessed, both included and left out, known and misunderstood, loved and judged; but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. The ups and downs of my involvement with Christian community has taught me four crucial lessons.
1. Christian community is needed. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 is one of my favorite passages of the Bible. It goes like this, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Woe to those who do not have strong Christian brothers and sisters in their lives to lift them up when they fall, to point out their sin when they are led astray, and to share in the positive moments of life. This woe is a warning that should be taken seriously. It should lead us to recognize the importance of having deep relationships with other believers. The Bible is littered with examples of Christian community and deep friendships between faithful men and women. 1 Samuel 18 describes the friendship of David and Jonathan: “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” The early church described in Acts shows countless examples of Christians gathering together in community. Paul even lays out guidelines for churches in his letters, because community through church is so important!
2. You are needed. There is this great passage in 1 Corinthians 12 that talks about how Christians are like different parts of the body, some are the feet, others the eyes. In the end, all these parts work together to make up the same body. Verses 15 and 21 say, “If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body... The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” Guess what! If you are a Christian, you are a part of this body. And if you are part of this body, you are needed! You are important. Verse 22 says that even the parts of the body that appear weak are indispensable. You can powerfully bless your community in the same way it powerfully impacts you!
3. Accept the imperfections of true godly community. All Christians are striving after the character of Jesus. We all want to love like Him, serve like Him, sacrifice like Him, but no Christian is Him. All Christians, all churches, all communities, are broken and imperfect. You have to go into community, into church, into Bible study, knowing your peers, your pastor, and your leaders are imperfect people who are doing their best to strive after Jesus. You have to go into community knowing you too are imperfect. Accept the imperfections of others, just as you would want them to accept your imperfections (Matthew 7:12).
4. Don’t give up on Christian community. I have heard of so many Christians who have been deeply wounded by Christian community and churches, so they just give up. They try to live the Christian life in solitude. Brothers and sisters, this is not how the Christian life is supposed to be lived! “And let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25). I understand the hurt that can come from community, I have felt it too, but do not neglect community. Maybe that community, that church, wasn’t for you. But instead of giving up all together, go from there and seek to find another community with perseverance. Do not stop until you have found a community of believers! Have grace, accepting the imperfections of a community who is truly trying to follow Christ. No community, no church, is perfect. But neither are you! Be imperfect together. Chase after Christ together. Keep searching for community, and do not stop until you find it.
No matter where you are in your walk with Christ, get involved. Invest in deep and meaningful relationships with other Christians. If you are in high school, join a youth group. If you are college, join a ministry. If you are an adult, join a Bible study. No matter what your age, join a church. Get involved, get completely invested in the body of believers. You will be hurt at some point, and I can guarantee that you will also hurt someone within your community, but do not give up.
Nothing compares to living each day in community with other imperfect Jesus-lovers.