The Community of Jesus

I’ve been thinking recently about what it is that distinguishes the community of Jesus from all other groups and unions. As human beings we typically attach ourselves to others based on common interests, causes, leisure activities, careers, personal charisma and a multitude of other pursuits. As believers, these may in fact be part of the package we enjoy with one another – nothing wrong with that. However, that does not automatically define our relationships as “Christian”. In fact, we could practice many of these things within the walls of a church building, be exercising acts of worship and religion yet still be missing the distinctive bond that unites us in a supernatural way. In Exodus 33, God has already told Moses that He would not be going with Israel into the Promised Land as He was concerned that He might judge them because of their stubborn hearts and actions. Moses pleads with God who changes His mind and pledges that “His Presence” would go with them and give them rest (14) because He was “pleased” with Moses and “knew him by name” (17). In the midst of this dialogue Moses confesses, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth” (15-16)? I am thankful for the Presence in my life because He often reminds me that I have paid Him no real attention in the exercises of life but particularly in community. I love being with people but am aware that I am often more drawn to others for what we share in common from a human standpoint than that of the Spirit. What is more troubling is that I can be drawn to the “fellowship” of another for what they give me – applause, confirmation and pleasures of various kinds. I am attracted to them for the external comforts they give to my flesh. In contrast, I avoid or reject those who are not “wowed” by me, disagree with me, combative or generally generate discomfort in me – hardly “supernatural”. My Friends, there are many things that can superficially unite us and many petty things that can divide and drive wedges between us. If upon reflection we see ourselves in this superficial and petty state, what is it that we can do? Where and to whom can we turn? Allow me to give a running quotation from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on this topic for our answer: “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it is a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ…. Among men there is strife. ‘He is our peace,’ says Paul of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2.14). Without Christ there is discord between God and man and between man and man. Christ became the Mediator and made peace with God and among men. Without Christ we should not know God, we could not call upon Him, nor come to Him. But without Christ we also would not know our brother, nor could we come to him. The way is blocked by our ego. Christ opened up the way to God and to our brother. Now Christians can live with one another in peace; they can love and serve one another; they can become one. But they can continue to do so only by way of Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus Christ are we one, only through him are we bound together…. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly and for all eternity” (Life Together, pp. 21-26). Where are we as a whole (or individually) when it comes to allowing the one and only bond of our communion to be in Jesus alone? I am aware of and confess the fact that there is a portion of me that connects with ya ’all in a much too earthly manner. But of this I also repent because I know there is a greater portion of me that knows and yearns for the “eternal” in our community. A community that is drawn to the Son of God found in each of us. A family who sees beyond the limitations of our behaviors and loves as He first loved us. Citizens of the Kingdom of God who can see and hear beyond our differing personalities, backgrounds, opinions and methods to witness the work of the King in our midst. Children of a Father who remain planted in Christ through the sin or dark seasons of another and live to share in their resurrection. A fellowship that will make Jesus the ever-greater centerpiece of our koinonia. Will you join me? Mark Pollock

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