I have loved Jesus for as long as I can remember. I was baptized at a young age, and surrounded by people who loved me, and who loved God. As I got older hard times came and went, and I received wounds and triggers that made me a tough person to be around at times. Anything could set me off, and I found myself constantly seeking a church community that would help me. I desired people who would protect my heart, encourage me, laugh with me, and pursue Jesus. I was often rejected because of how I acted in confrontation. When I eagerly tried to fix it, seek reconciliation, and understand why I was being cast aside by people who I so desperately wanted to love me, I was told that I needed to find my security and worth in Jesus first. They said people would always let me down, and the only way to stop getting hurt or hurting others was to first seek healing within my own heart.
This sounded right. It sounded biblical, and it was being said by people I knew had my best interest. So I went on a journey of healing and reconciliation. I was in a place of humility where I was aware of how mean and hurtful I could be, and was willing to do anything to prune those behaviors in order to get healthy. I wanted my community back. I thought that if I pursued Jesus hard enough that I would naturally draw in others who would do the same, and I would finally gain the love and acceptance I so craved. So I did it. I learned so much (and I still am), but overall I allowed Jesus heal those wounds. With a newly focused mindset I re-entered the community I so desperately desired, and pursued friendship relentlessly. I can honestly say that I have never loved a group of people so much. I think knowing that I had hurt, slandered, and rejected them in the past made receiving their love so much more satisfying. They did not have a reason to accept me, but many of them did anyway.
Now that I feel like I am in the place I wanted to be in I realized there are so many people that are being rejected, hurt, and pushed away from the same community. How could that be? I would tell myself that they probably were not trying hard enough, or they needed fix some things in themselves. Then they would be welcomed too. Then I realized that was wrong. That my entire idea of community, and the body of Christ was filled with barriers and lies. After a lot of thought, discussion, prayer, and reading I compiled a list of things I think could help shift our generations idea of community and Christian culture.
I want to go ahead and disclaim that I don’t think that the church I am apart of, the pastors, leadership, or members are doing anything wrong. I love my church, and the people. This list is supposed to help those who are being filled up and fed as the body realize that there are some people that are not, but want it desperately. These are just a few things that I think can really help us start a discussion about what it means to be a Christian today, and overall how we can love each other so much better as the body of Christ.
1. If you are secure in your identity and relationship with Jesus, then you shouldn’t be trying to find that in community.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
We are often told that we need community because it is not good to isolate ourselves, and it is a place where we can worship and learn about God, and get “plugged in”. Although this is great, it isn’t completely true. We are missing what community truly is. We do not need community. We are community. We are the body. Satan has shifted the definition of community, and allowed us to believe that fellowship is just a tool in which we encourage each other’s personal walks, and not the specific way in which the Body grows closer to Christ.
To me the quickest way to suffer as a community is keeping everyone accountable for their own relationships with Jesus. We need to be pursuing God at all times, which sometimes means when we are alone. But alone I am just a foot. Can I walk towards God as a foot? Yes, but can I see Him? Smell Him? Taste Him? Understand Him? If I am an eye can I see God, and work towards seeing him more clearly and vividly. But I will never be able to walk near him without the foot. This is how the body of Christ functions. This is why I do not need community, but I am community. My identity is one part of a body that is actively pursuing God together.
“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
2. If you don’t fit well in a certain community find a place at a different church that you do fit.
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one 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.’”
Personality clashing, doctrine, race, gender, economic class, hobbies, ect. should never be a reason for leaving a community. The question you should ask yourself isn’t do I fit in well with these people? Do they like me? Do they want me here? How can I fit in better? What am I doing wrong? It should be Do you love these people, and if so how much? When you love someone there is no limit to how many times you can forgive, extend mercy, reconcile, correct, or be corrected. There is also no limit of kindness, generosity, patience, peace, and acceptance. If you love someone you will fight for them, so no matter what the issue or disagreement is, if you find people that you know you can love that is where you should be. Because when you truly love people there is no limit to what you can do together for God.
3. This person is too _____.
Much. Loud. Emotional. Weird. Clingy. Needy. Desperate. Annoying. The list goes on and on. If you are human you have had these thoughts about people. You are in worship, and somebody starts dancing a little weird, and you can’t help be think that. But, when you allow yourself to form opinions and push identities on to people YOU are the one missing out. As a Christian our mindset should be “what does this person have to offer that can draw our community closer to Christ”, and not “what can I do to help this person feel included, and not alone”. Pity does nothing for the Kingdom of God. Going deep, being vulnerable, and seeking out each other’s spiritual gifts is what will take a community from “really powerful worship and anointed message” to “we honored God together, we were unified, we suffered, and then we rejoiced, together”.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
4. You have your close friends that you go deep with, and then you have your other friends/acquaintances that are healthy to be around because they are believers just like you. AND Being content with yourself being filled up and poured into, but not being concerned if other people in the body are spiritually satisfied.
This goes along with the idea that we can’t “spread ourselves too thin” or “we can’t exhaust ourselves trying to help and meet with everyone, because we have to be intentional about who we spend out time with”. I cannot say that wanting to spend time with a select few people is wrong. I can only tell you that if you are only surrounding yourself with those people then you are missing out, and you aren’t functioning as the whole body should. I know that Jesus had friends that he was closer too than other disciples. So having people that you are closest too is good! But, I can also say that if there are people in your community actively seeking you out, and you think it is not a good use of your time, that it may not be a good fit, it isn’t the healthiest person, they make you uncomfortable, or any other excuse just remember: they have the same spirit as you, they were baptized into the body that you are apart of, and they have spiritual gifts to offer. If you don’t feel right about it nobody can force you, but remember that God chose them just like he chose you.
“For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
5. If it isn’t peaceful then it isn’t healthy.
Confrontation is always going to happen. People will hurt you. You will hurt other people. Believing that you should stay away from people in the body of Christ who consistently have issues arising, because it isn’t “healthy” is not how the body works. If there are wounds, triggers, heart problems, and overall disagreement with a specific person then as an entire community we need to love that person more, not distance yourself. If there is a person who is constantly angry then we will encourage them by speaking life into their identity relentlessly. When they are mad you surround them in prayer, and you tell them that they are peace. They are kindness. They are mercy. They protect hearts they do not hurt them. God’s love and light will drown out the darkness, and heal their wounds. If we want their spiritual gifts that they have to offer so that we can continue to pursue God together, then we will nurse that suffering person back to health. That is who we are, and that is one of the greatest way we can love each other.
“On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require.”
6. Confrontation is bad, and believing truth isn’t necessary if it hurt’s someone else’s feelings
“But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
You can identify as a lot of things: Christian, Intercessor, Leader, Worshipper, Dancer, Writer, Peace-Maker, ect. But before anything you are a lover. Because we are made to love God. We are made to love people. After that we use our identities to better love. If you do, say, or witness something that hurts somebody else, and you do not seek reconciliation or understanding then you are not loving well. It is not another part of the bodies problem. It is YOUR problem, because you are part of the body. On the other side if you are the one being hurt, and you say nothing because you want to have “mercy” and “peace” then you are still creating a place of resentment, anger, and disfunction to form within the body. One of the greatest ways to love somebody is to confess to them that they are hurting you. If they do not take it well then love them even more. Show them. Tell them. Love them until they realize that yes they hurt you, but that understanding and reconciliation is waiting for them the moment they want it. It is scary, but there is no better opportunity to show the fruits of the spirit then in these conflicts.
So, what do you do if you are not being hurt or hurting others, but you witness hurt going on within your community? Well we know that the end goal of truth is always strengthening the body of Christ. If they are doing something that is hurting themselves or others then it still must be addressed. You need to use wisdom to make sure that it is a the right time and place, but even if you yourself struggle you have to be willing to confront others. This is one of the biggest way we can have unity and grow together. It takes vulnerability, because we don’t know how they may react. It takes bravery, because we may not have the words. But more than that it takes love. If you love someone you will confront. That is why I am writing all of this now. So that I can confront my friends, and open their eyes to the lies and barriers that we are experiencing in our community.
If you have read all this you are incredible. I hope that it made sense, and that you don’t think I am picking apart my community. I hope you realize that I love you, and I just want us to grow together. I want us to love well, and I don’t want anyone ever feeling left out of a community of believers that they have a God given right to be apart of. Lastly, to anyone who thinks I may have pulled random verses, or taken things out of context here is a link to all of chapter 12, which is where the verses I used are from. I encourage you to read it completely, and come talk to me about how this has made you feel. I want to know if you disagree or agree. I myself truly know nothing, and all of this is worthless if it hasn’t brought truth, unity, and ultimately growing us closer to God.