Years ago, when I first started attending church, I thought I had to “look good and be good”. I believed that I needed to appear as if I had my act together and never messed up… and if I did, no one need ever find out
about it. The good news is that I was dead wrong. I’ve since come to learn that the truth lies in the biblical definition of what authentic community really is.
Here’s the thing, when we make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, we do it for good reason. He created the entire earth and everything on it, parted seas, defeated armies, calmed storms and breathed life into all living things. Most importantly, He defeated death so that we might live eternally and so that the Holy Spirit could be with us in community with others. Consider 1 John 4:7-11:
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (NIV)
Picture a group of everyday people who get together and don’t gossip about or judge one another… but who honestly love, support and pray for each other. To get even more specific about what this looks like, let’s look at James 5:16:
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (NIV)
Confess our sins to one another? That involves a safe place of sharing, support and fellowship where we can listen and share our experience, strength and hope with others as we help each other heal in God’s power. Do such places exist? They do, usually in Biblically-based small groups in churches where it is understood that we are all fighting a spiritual battle because…
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) NIV
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) NIV
Satan knows this and uses lies and deception to try to isolate us permanently from authentic community.
But, when we can set our differences aside, ask for and receive forgiveness using God’s healing power and not our own, that is authentic Christian community. When we experience that type of community, we can be in relationship with others where we can be real, honest and embrace our own brokenness.