The Call of Community
Romans 12:9-18 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Living in community is a dangerous pursuit. Everyone would agree that it is noble and some would even say that it’s necessary. However, very few actually accompany their call to community with the calls of confession, repentance and accountability. Perhaps one of the biggest fears we all share is that someone will actually discover who we are at the core. This fear can only be dispelled with the unconditional love of Christ through the gospel and then exemplified through our brothers and sisters.
If we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep, then the fellowship we share has to go deeper than the latest good news and probe the depths of our sorrow and sin. I can’t even imagine the liberty we deprive ourselves of by locking our hearts away from anyone who might learn of our imperfections. If we would only be willing to share our struggles, we might be surprised to see God’s grace ministered to us and through us to those stumbling at our sides. C.S. Lewis summarized this condition of isolation extremely well:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
It seems puzzingly ironic that the weaknesses we try to hide might be what unlocks the strengths others are trying to find. In true community we find safety to confess our sins, support to turn away from them and strength to live in loving accountability. There is a liberating power in mutual confession. Sara Groves has a song called “Different Kinds of Happy” which was inteneded as a reflection of her own marriage though it’s lyrics are more broadly applicable.
go on and ask me anything
what do you need to know
I’m not holding on to anything
I’m not willing to let go of
to be free, to be free
secrets and cyphers
there’s no good way to hide
there’s redemption in confession
and freedom in the light
I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid
it’s a sweet, sweet thing
standing here with you and nothing to hide
light shining down to our very insides
sharing our secrets, bearing our souls,
helping each other come clean”
My favorite author says, “The call is to community, the impoverished power that sets the soul free”. (Michael Card ~ The Basin and the Towel) What are we holding back that might unleash the power of God in our own communities? What is holding us back from living out the call of community, confession, repentance and accountability? The answer to those questions might very well be the means through which we can find liberty. Like the call from a friend long overdue, the call of community comes and beckons us to pick up, engage, love and walk together in the dangerous safety of fellowship so sweet.