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We live in an era where we are more connected than any other time in the history of man.
But psychologists tell us that loneliness is the number one health issue of our time. How can it be it that we are so connected but at the same time so lonely?
In Acts 2:42, we read that the early church devoted themselves to fellowship, the Greek word Koinonia, which means; partnership, participation, communion and companionship.
In Romans 15:1-7, the Apostle Paul instructs the Roman church how to live and how to relate to one another in light of the Gospel. In the first verse he gets straight to the point, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” He uses the word obligation, which could also mean, duty, or legal requirement,
We don’t like this kind of language in our culture today, we are free individuals, why should we be obligated to do anything for someone else? Obviously, just as in 2019, this was a problem in the first century. Paul answers the question very clearly in verse 3 of Romans 15, “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”
Christ gave himself for us. This is the foundation for the Gospel message, Jesus being obedient to the Father preferred us over his own life and his position in heaven. True unity in the church is an outworking of the Gospel, it is a miracle of God as the Holy Spirit draws us to prefer each other, in light of what Jesus has done for us.
But It still takes work, Paul repeats the phrase “endurance and encouragement” in verse 4 and
It takes endurance, it takes hard work, it takes commitment (that word that our generation seems find troublesome).
Endurance is the ability to endure and continue to do something even when the finish line never seems to get any closer. Walking in unity requires endurance, there are days when it seems easier than others, but we keep on going, because we are committed to each other.
Along with endurance, we need Encouragement, we are encouraged by the faithfulness of those who have gone before us (see Hebrews 12:1), We are encouraged by the Word of God,
And we are encouraged by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the church.
All of these encourage us and keep us moving forward towards greater unity, towards a healthier community.
Community literally means living with unity. But what is the purpose of unity in the church?
Is it so that we can just get along? Is it so that we portray the image of a nice happy family?
Is it so that we attract more people to our happy community and grow? Actually it is significantly important than all of those, unity in the church is to bring glory to God (see Romans 15:6).
How do we display the glory of God as the church? In Ephesians 3:10 we read, “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
God is using the followers of Jesus to display His wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. The word for manifold is the same word that one would use to describe the many facets of a diamond. God holds the church up like a diamond and points to the church and teaches about himself to the angels and principalities of the spirit world. Even as we are weak, broken and struggling towards unity, because of the Gospel and the righteousness of Jesus, we are used by God more than we will ever know. When we walk in unity and prefer others, we display the Glory of God. In John 17:22 and 23, as Jesus was praying for the church, he prayed that we would display the glory given to him by the Father, in order to draw others to a saving knowledge of himself.
Unity is not simply getting along for the sake of peace, unity is a miracle of God in order to display the glory of God to a lost and dying world. Jesus desires unity more than we do, he went to the cross so that we could be a community of believers in fellowship and love.
There is much at stake, it is vital that we are a healthy community, the eternal destiny of our neighbors is at stake. Our culture is starving for authentic community.
Many people are thirsting for community but are afraid to step into community, reaching out and being proactive, not for what we can get out of it, but for the Glory of God to be displayed. When you do that, you will get more out of a community than you ever imagined.
The focus will be off ourselves and we will lift our heads up and be healthy.
When we grasp how Jesus went to the cross for us, we will easily give ourselves and our self-interests away in order to step into a community where Jesus is glorified. If we struggle to stay in fellowship with each other, it is because we are not allowing the Gospel message to permeate our relationships, we are self-centered rather than grace centered.
We live in a culture of individualism and consumerism and the church can easily fall into the trap of feeding the desires of the consumers, instead of focusing on the glory of God. A healthy church is where people willingly step into community in order to display the glory of Jesus.
So how do we step into community?
Firstly, we need to understand that supernatural unity can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the head of the church. A church community that is not centered around a common relationship with Jesus will always leave us wanting (see John 4:13-14a).
Stepping into community requires vulnerability, it requires a risk. Step into community, volunteer to serve, host a meal and invite people around. We are all busy, but we prioritize what we value. What is we prioritized and valued authentic community, what can be a better way to spend our time than displaying the glory of God?
Take a step today.