Are there things in your life that you take for granted? The fact your basic needs are met? Your freedoms as an American (Thank you veterans!)? Your job? Your health? Your kids? Your spouse? If we’re being honest, surely all of us would occasionally have to answer those questions in the affirmative. This is also true in the church. Many of the gifts God bestows on us are treated as common, routine, mundane, or even entitlements. One such gift we often treat this way is the church itself. I’m not talking about a building you visit once a week. I’m talking about the people of God, those who have been redeemed by God’s grace, the church.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor who stood against the Nazi regime in World War II Germany, understood the value of God’s people. In his book Life Together, he urged people to prize the community of faith as a gift from God. He wrote, “Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” What then are some evidences of the grace of Christian community?
Let me give you one that is pretty all encompassing: The church provides the context where the “one another” commands of Scripture are to be fulfilled. This week in our Community Group meetings we looked at several key passages that highlight many of these commands (John 13:34-35; Rom 12:3-21; Gal 6:1-2; Eph 4:25-32; Col 3:16-17; James 5:16). We discovered a plethora of instructions concerning how God’s people are to live life together in a way that honors him and one another. We are to love one another, serve one another, outdo one another in showing honor, rejoice and weep with one another, live in harmony together, bear one another’s burdens, be kind to one another, teach, admonish, confess sin, forgive, pray for, and encourage one another. And that’s not all the Bible has to say about gospel fellowship.
Do you ever need to give and receive love? Do you have burdens that you carry? Do you have it all figured out, or are there things in life you need to learn? Do you ever need prayer? Do you ever rejoice or weep? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then let me suggest that you need the church. God designed the church to be a community of disciples who grow in their love for him and their love for one another together, to navigate the joys and the sorrows of life together, to advance his mission together, and to enjoy life and enjoy him together. That’s what it means to be the church. “ . . . grace, nothing but grace . . .”