Summary: Christian community is not only vital to our spiritual health, it is vital to our mission and ministry as Christians.
John 13:31-35 “New Rules By Which To Live”
Families … you’ve got to love them. Not only are they a cornerstone in our society, but they play a major part in each and every one of our lives. We may not have reached the imagined perfection of Ozzie and Harriet, or Ward and June Cleaver, but thankfully few of us have experienced the perversion of the Ozzie Osborne family. Though none of us have experienced family bliss, we have an internal compass that tells us what is wrong in a family and what we want and need in a family.
Jesus’ comments to his disciples—his calling them “little children” and commanding them to love one another conjure up the image of family in our minds and remind us how our relationship with God and each other mold, shape and empower of lives.
To be a part of a family, or a community, is vitally important for our personal well-being. As the poet/pastor John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, no man stands alone.” We cannot survive without other people.
Almost all of us can recall the struggle that we have had, moving from our families in another part of the States or the world and trying to find a community of friends here in Surprise, Arizona. It is not an easy task.
Modern life hinders the establishment of families and communities. Cinder block fences don’t help build community—thought nothing makes a good neighbor like a good fence. The modern pace of life blocks building community. The stress and demands of life limit our ability to nurture relationships and family.
One of the reasons why we are part of Desert Streams Church, though, is to be part of a community—a family of God. We talk about being brothers and sisters in Christ. And we have the privilege of addressing God as “Our Father.” This is both a blessing and a challenge. In order to be a family, you need to get close to others. Sometimes it is most difficult to love those to whom you are closest.
LOVING LIKE JESUS
Jesus commands his followers to love one another as he has loved them. He doesn’t just give them a command, but rather he first immerses them in his love. He loves the disciples, and he demonstrates to them how to show that love to the other disciples and the people around them.
Families are the main place where we learn about life. Our families mold and shape us—for the good and for the bad. In families we should experience love and learn how to love. We learn how to be part of a team and how to forgive when necessary. There are also families who have taught each other how to hate, hold grudges and abuse each others. Our family experiences have lasting effects upon us.
Being a part of God’s family also has its lasting effect upon us. We learn from God what love is really all about—sacrifice and service. We learn to give support and encouragement, how to work together, how to strive for a common goal, how to forgive and open ourselves to restored and renewed relationships.
Family and community are always a possibility in a Christian congregation. But it takes work to become a family of God and a family of believers. It takes the willingness for people to become involved beyond the Sunday morning worship. It takes a dedication to learn together and serve together, to be trusting and vulnerable. It is vitally important for us to pledge ourselves to never betray a trust or to take advantage of vulnerability.