Summary: When it comes to connecting in close-knit community, we are bankrupt. But this is the foundation of God’s ultimate purpose. This was the case before time began, and it was His purpose for creating. Therefore, it’s the highest achievement a Christian can attain. But in order to do so, we have to allow our abnormalities to connect us instead of divide us.
In the last post, I warned you that nobody’s normal. Coming into a new community with this expectation and mindset is the only way we can hope to fulfill everyone’s favorite “one another” – bear with one another :). But remembering this is not just so we’ll get along, have less conflict and hopefully stick together for the long term. It goes much deeper than that.
God’s purpose for creating
There’s really two foundational motivations we have as human beings – achieving and connecting.
While both are natural and good, our culture seems to be obsessed with one and bankrupt with the other. I know you know which is which. The reason this unbalance is so unhealthy for us is this…
Community (connecting) is the single word that best sums up God’s purpose for creating. His purpose has always been to extend His dominion and glory into another realm through another creature (one new humanity) made in His image (though they are many, they are one).
If we go back before time began, what do we find? We find three Persons in perfect oneness. We find community. As John Ortberg points out in his book Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them…
Life within the Trinity was to be the pattern for our lives.
So what was this Life like? Check out what Jesus prays for us before he goes to the cross…
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. (John 17:20-23)
Think about that for a minute. What does it mean to be IN each other? The Greek word for this mutual indwelling is related to our word choreography. It’s an eternal synchronized dance of joyful love among the Three. Ortberg goes on to point out…
Each member of the Trinity points faithfully and selflessly to the other in a gracious circle…the persons within God exalt each other, commune with each other, and defer to each other.
We’re all familiar with the concept that God is Love. But these are just words. Life is activity. You must take a closer look at the activity within God that makes Him Love. We were built in His image; meaning we were built for the same activity. That activity is close-knit community where each member concentrates their attention on, has a preference for and submits to each other in the self-sacrificial giving and receiving of Love.
This is the one thing you must do to fulfill God’s purpose. It’s not church services, helping the poor, evangelizing, or whatever other activities that we prioritize over the harder work of close-knit life together. Those can be by-products, but they are not the prime product.
What authentic community is like
Let’s look at a biblical example that gives us a beautiful earthly picture of what this type of community is like and the results it brings…
In Mark 2:1-12, we find the story where men bring a paralytic to a home where Jesus was. But it was so crowded, they couldn’t even get the man close to Jesus. But they were so desperate, they made a hole in the roof of the home and lowered the man through it. Jesus healed him and he walked out of the house carrying his mat.
Let’s make some keen observations about this short story:
- Paralysis is an abnormality that is out in the open for everyone to see. Sometimes it can take a little while in community to experience people’s abnormalities. People have different levels of ability to hide them. But this man’s physical condition made the “bear with one another” in this community even more difficult from the start. In the ancient world, they believed for the most part that physical abnormalities were a curse brought about by their or their family’s own choices. Many people even believed those with abnormalities should be killed at birth. So the men who carried the mat not only had to be inconvenienced by their friend’s abnormality, they had to absorb the social stigma that being associated with him also brought.
- Without his friends, the man never makes it to Jesus. He had a decision to make. If he allows his friends to take him through the roof, he could get dropped, ridiculed and rejected. On the other hand, if he doesn’t do it, it’s certain that he’ll never be healed.
- It’s a very vulnerable thing to let others carry your mat. More than anything else, God uses people to heal people. Letting others carry your mat is the most humbling thing in the world you can do. It makes you die to yourself, which is where resurrection healing is found. If your primary goal in life is to hide your mat, you will not live in true Kingdom community.
- Jesus healed the man through the faith of his community. When these men saw that they couldn’t get in the house to see Jesus, they could have just given up and taken him back home. They believed Jesus could heal the man, so they put forth irrational effort to get the man to Him.
Everybody has abnormalities that will only be healed by others carrying them on their mat to Jesus.
Kingdom citizens embrace each other’s abnormalities
In the world, each person’s abnormalities are dividers. When worldly people encounter abnormalities in each other, it drives them apart. But the Kingdom is the opposite of that. In the Kingdom, abnormalities are connectors that bind us together as we bring each other to the Lord for healing.
This is why to be truly effective as a community of believers, you’ve got to look past the fact that people aren’t normal, they will fail you, they will annoy you, they will have quirks, etc. When it comes to achievement, there’s no higher one than the connection of close-knit Kingdom community and the carrying of each other’s mats. When you’ve achieved this, all other achievements pale in comparison.
To take it a step further, everything we try to achieve should be for the ultimate purpose of building and benefiting community. On the flip side, there is no greater failure in life than disunity and individualism in the body of Christ; for those two things are fundamentally at odds with the ultimate purpose of God.
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