I recently conversed with a woman who considers herself a follower of Jesus but not a Christian. She has met many “Christians” whose lives do not reflect Jesus. As a result, she views Christianity as a man-made system rather than a relationship with God. Sadly, she is not alone in this experience. At least in the US, the term “Christian” has multiple meanings, many of which are not God-glorifying.
The foundation of Christianity is an individual relationship with God. But God does not intend for His children to live in isolation from each other. He wants us to be interconnected as we pursue the common goals of becoming more like Him and sharing His message with others. This Bible passage describes the community of Christians immediately after Christ walked the earth.
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. (Acts 2:44-47a, NIV)
This depicts far more life. They sacrificed their own comfort to meet each other’s physical needs. They gathered to learn from God’s Word and celebrate Jesus’ work in their lives. They enjoyed meals together and shared God’s blessings. This led to a positive reputation in their city as people observed their lifestyle. They shared life and reflected Jesus in their interactions.
The Bible is full of examples of shared lives. Eve was created after God proclaimed it was not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). During the flood, God only names Noah as being righteous, yet he saved his whole family (Genesis 6). The Israelites traveled as a group (Exodus 12:37) and lived in communities based on their family line (Numbers 1:52). Forty-seven New Testament verses instruct Jesus’ followers how to relate to one another, with the majority specifying how to be united and love each other. As the following verses illustrate, we are stronger together.
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NIV)
We help each other grow. This is not always an easy process. As iron is sharpened, sparks are produced, but the result is a more useful tool. Our interactions with people may lead to sparks of conflict, but they ultimately create an opportunity for us to become more refined and Christ-like. As we navigate these moments, we challenge each other to grow and become all God created us to be.
In hard times we survive by being together. I have stood by two families as they faced crisis situations recently. The first was already connected to a community and immediately turned to them for physical and emotional support, knowing the requests would be a natural extension of existing relationships. They felt peace knowing the needs would be met and were comfortable asking because they had walked with others through hard times. The second family’s crisis led them to realize they were not connected and didn’t know where to turn for support. They felt alone and overwhelmed with all that faced them. When a community stepped up to care for them, it was uncomfortable at first. But as they experienced provision of their basic needs and emotional support, they were grateful. The experience has led them to look at life through a different lens and will probably result in them becoming more connected to a community.
Christ-followers are not the only people to live in community. People can band together around any number of shared goals or preferences. But Christian community has a uniqueness: our connection will continue for eternity! God does something special when His children share their lives on earth:
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35, NASB)
Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4, NASB)
Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13, NASB)
When we live a disconnected life, we miss opportunities to love and be loved. We miss opportunities to experience and reveal God’s power at work, to overcome human differences, and display a unity that is possible only through Christ. We miss opportunities to show God’s love in action as we supernaturally love others through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Far more life is a connected life. It is giving and receiving love in both the big moments and the everyday moments of life. It celebrates and mourns together. It works and plays together. It dreams and plans together. It works through differences together. The result is that we become greater than the sum of our parts; shared life is richer and more impactful than isolated life. We experience God in new ways and show a more complete picture of Him to everyone we encounter. We live far more life.
Are you living an isolated life or a connected life?
What hesitations do you have about connecting with other Christ-followers?
How have you been sharpened by others?
How have you experienced God’s love or provision through others?
You may have been hurt by others. Talk to God about those situations and ask Him to help you find a safe community to join.
Find far more life taking the next step in connecting with others this week.
Copyright 2019, Shari Damaso
Photo credit: Jennifer Marsh