Summary: We don't often think of community as a spiritual discipline. But its one the body of Christ literally can't do without.
Good morning. Please turn in your Bibles to Romans chapter 15. We are continuing our series on spiritual disciplines. When we started this, I introduced you to this illustration of building a trellis—a framework on which your spiritual life can grow. The trellis helps the plant grow in a healthy way. It keeps it out of the dirt. It protects it from pests. And it gives it a structure so that the plant doesn’t just grow wild in all directions.
Spiritual disciplines are like that. They are habits that we build into our daily and weekly routine in order to give what God has planted within us a framework to grow on.
Some of those are things we say yes to. We call those habits of abiding. Some of them are things we say no to. These are habits of resisting. We talked last week about the first two habits of abiding, Scripture and Prayer. This morning we’ll talk about two more: Community, and Accountability.
As we prepare to receive communion together, we are going to look at what Romans 15 says about the discipline of Christian community. Read this with me, and if you’re physically able, please stand to honor the reading of God’s Word:
15 We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. 2 Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. 3 For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Pray with me…
We don’t often think of community as a spiritual discipline, do we? Is Christian community necessary? Our relationship with Jesus is personal, right? So do we really need anyone else? I can get just as close to God at the campsite, or in my bass boat, as I do at church.
Or some people might agree that community is important, but they aren’t all that invested in a particular community. What if they aren’t being fed in their church? Don’t they have the right to go somewhere else? What if someone makes them mad? What if they disagree with a leadership decision made by the staff or the pastor? They don’t owe the church anything, do they? As long as they are going to “a” church, they can church hop week in and week out, and not have to join one until they find one that meets all their needs. And if they never do, that’s ok too, right? They’re still reading their Bibles. They still listen to Christian radio. And now that you can watch any worship service in the world on YouTube, you can check off the “Worship attended” box and never set foot in a brick and mortar church at all, right?
But the Bible paints a very different picture of Christian the Christian life, and its one where we aren’t just responsible for our own relationship with God, we’re also responsible to our brothers and sisters. That’s why we are talking about community and accountability together. Romans 15 lays out three truths about community, and then we are going to end with two practical ways to build the habit of community and accountability.
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Just to give you some context for these verses: In chapter 14, Paul talks about not becoming divided over trivial, non-essential things (in this case, whether or not is was acceptable to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols). Paul knew that he had absolute freedom in Christ to eat whatever he wanted. But he also knew that for someone else, eating that meat would offend his conscience and cause him to sin. He deals with the same issue in 1 Corinthians 8, where he says, you know what, for the sake of my weaker brother, I’ll never eat meat again. Romans 14:19, “Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” And if that means giving up some of my personal preferences and comforts, I’m okay with that.
So that’s the context for his teaching in Romans 15. He says that we who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak.