If you’re a Christian, God has given you a special affinity for other Christians.
There is this immediate bond that follows when you, a believer, meet another believer. Think of the times you discover when someone you’ve just met follows Jesus. There is this immediate sense of familiarity. As if you are naturally a brother or sister of this person, only better.
That’s something that is latent in all Christian relationships, but it needs to be developed.
Going to church on Sunday and brushing up against other Christians on your way out to the parking lot is not going to do it. All of these brief contacts, at church, at work, on the ball fields, are great.
But they amount to nothing more than incidental contact. They are like a sip from the water fountain when you are dying from thirst.
All Christians are united together as one body. Christ is the Head and Christians the members. And just as in a natural body all the members are ready to serve one another, so it is in this spiritual body. (Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:12-13)
The hands serve the rest of the body.
Our ears, eyes and feet all exist to serve the rest of the body.
And if the head is dishonored, watch out!- the whole rest of the body springs into action to prove it wrong.
If we say we are Christians, but deny this kind of community, we are being too selfish.
But it’s a community that’s going to require more than a sip.
Developing that natural affinity is going to require that we drink deeply of it. Only then will we be satisfied and find the true community that we were designed for.
Secular culture is devolving into a polarized us vs. them mentality. Blue versus red versus Fox versus CNN. Don’t fall into elevating politics above the gospel.
Theology does not overlay politics anywhere near perfectly- and even worse is when we reverse it and overlay politics over our theology.
The worse thing we can do is hunker down in our silos with people who look and think exactly like we do.
Because there is no us vs. them in the gospel.
We are all image bearers desperately loved by God. The gospel is designed to bring natural enemies together under one roof. People you would never hang out with, let alone call a brother or sister, if it wasn’t for the gospel.
Having the gospel in common and wanting to spread the gospel, “trumps” political affiliation, what we look like, how we do church, what language we speak, our age or what income bracket we are in.
It’s completely natural for gospel principles to make us uncomfortable with the people we are hanging out with. It’s when they don’t that it’s a problem.
The happiest people I’ve known are also the ones who I’ve watched selflessly serve others.
My Grandma and my wife are two people in my life who exemplify this. They are people pleasers. Now, there are good and bad people pleasers.
The bad ones want something out of you. But both these ladies are simply happiest when they are making others happy. They just do it to do it. Why?
Jesus, who is the perfect human image of God, fully pleases God, and it delights Jesus to do it, as only one perfect Being can please another. It’s part of the perpetually pleasing back and forth of the members of the Trinity.
As humans, we are made in the image of God, so we have some sense of it, too. That’s why when we please other image bearers, it just makes us happy.
You can only find happiness in either the true image or the image bearer. You can’t find it in yourself or in an inanimate object, because its something that has to be reflected back at you by another Being.
Happy in the True Image: It’s a not-so-vicious circle. We live by God’s good- are happy in it- so we do more of God’s good- and are even happier. And since God is most pleased with us when we love and obey Him, so we are pleased and content, too.
And Happy in the Image Bearer: what brings happiness in others, bring happiness in us. And who doesn’t like being around happy people? So when we please others- love your neighbor style- they are happy, and so are we.
So we are designed to do good things. And the degree to which we are able to do those good things- we’re happy when we do it, and less happy when we don’t.
Law starts with love. Because how did Jesus say we are to do the law? By loving God and neighbor as ourselves.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10
“Love must be sincere…” And then Paul continues in the chapter with all these things we should be doing: hating evil, clinging to good, being joyful, patient, blessing those who curse us, etc.
And not just love, but sincere love. If we’re focused on the list, box checking, refrigerator list Christianity, even though they are all things you should be doing: you are practicing hospitality or sharing with those in need…there’s a danger- we may have a secret ulterior motive.
One of our motivations is the hope that we’ll be loved back.
So, in that case, you’re really doing it for yourself. It’s self-love.
What can I get out of it?
Will people like me more?
Will God love me more?
Self love is not sincere love. Sincere means without hypocrisy. And if we’re not sincere, we’re hypocrites. Self love is hypocrisy.
We’re not really doing it because we love others, we’re doing it because we love ourselves.
Check out how we learn to do it the right way, in love, here:
One thing your going to find in Christian community- and its going to be unexpected- it might be surprising. Your going to find a strange mix, this strange brew of people. People that you normally wouldn’t be hanging out with. Different ages than you, backgrounds, nationalities, family types.
The gospel does that. It takes away all the boundaries and groups that we tend to clump ourselves into and uses the most unlikely people in our lives. And it makes for an unlikely church.
Now, if Christ is your Savior, God has broken down the wall of partition between you and God. A consequence of that, a side effect- is that partitions between people, walls between nationalities and tribes, skin color- rich/ poor, red state/blue state- those walls are also torn down.
Because we should no longer be identifying ourselves like that- those things are no longer most important- where we go for our acceptance. Now- our identity- is supposed to be found only in Christ and in what He accomplished for us. In other words, groups aren’t so important. So we no longer find our worth and accomplishments there.
In Paul’s time- a wall similar to what we see today, separated Jews and Gentiles. We often refer to this in theological terms- but in simple terms, they really just hated each other. Some of them would’ve been fine throwing down at a first century version of Charlottesville.
Here’s what Paul wrote about that- speaking of Christ- he says in Ephesians 2:14:
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…
Sometimes during winter, the chemicals on the road put a light film on my windshield. At night, when I am driving on a dark road alone, I really don’t notice it.
But when an oncoming car shines its headlights onto my windshield, that slight, unnoticeable film makes it almost impossible to see. I had no idea that something that potentially blinding was there until it got illuminated.
God’s Word is the set of headlights that reveals the junk that keeps us from seeing things as they are. Stuff in front of us, on a collision course even, that we might not have even noticed before.
Psalm 119:105 states:
God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Christian, God is at work, even in your darkest times. But God’s will, the Law He has written in His Word and in our hearts, may become clouded over and difficult for us to see in the middle of it.
Church family helps to hold and aim that lamp as an instrument of God, helping us to see clearly and putting us back on the road. That’s one reason that Life Groups are so important.
True change can only be accomplished if we allow the Holy Spirit to rewrite our code with God’s.
Ezekiel 36:26- I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
Jeremiah 31:33- I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.