“For we are the temple of the Living God.” As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” II Corinthians 6:16
In a recent interview with Christianity Today, new Pope Francis had a lot to say about the vital importance of community in his life and the life of all people, especially God’s people. As Pope he has chosen to live in an apartment in one of the Vatican guest residences and not in the Apostolic Palace where the Pope normally resides in luxury, but also more exclusion. He said to live there is like living in an “inverted funnel.” “People can come only in dribs and drabs, and I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.” Belonging to a people has strong theological value. “In the history of salvation, God has saved a people. There is no full identity without belonging to a people. No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in human community. God enters in to this dynamic, this participation in the web of human relationships….”
Indeed, throughout the Scriptures God reveals His calling out, His saving a people, not as individuals alone, but as a people who are His people. They are called the ecclesia, the Church, the mystical body of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not so much saved, separated, and isolated persons, but a redeemed PEOPLE, in relationship to one another and to Him. This is a prophetic word for Christians who want Jesus apart from institutionalized religion. Hebrews says quite clearly, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together!” (Hebrews 10:25) God’s declared design is for His people to be in relationship to one another; to worship and serve together as a people set apart by their unity in Him; hence, community! Living out your faith in individualistic isolation is a concept foreign to the teaching of Christ and the revelation of His Word.
While we cannot come to salvation in Christ on the coattails of others alone, we are certainly in most cases ushered to the foot of the cross by a community of the faithful. We are redeemed as individuals who are personally known, loved and atoned for by the Savior. But we are saved into community; to live, worship, and serve in community. Community is a necessity of Biblical Christianity; we need the body of Christ to come to full maturity in Him. Whenever we stumble and fall, whenever we are in need, the worst thing we can do is flee into reclusiveness. At these times we need the body of Christ for restoration and healing, and the Scriptures could not be clearer in pointing us in that direction. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as we see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25) Remind yourself again of the “lettuce patch” of Scripture in Hebrews 10:19-25. It is always “Let us…..”
Change begins with an individual, who is first in a family, and then in community. But change never occurs if it remains within the individual and never moves further. In fact, this cannot be. Genuine change always impacts those around the individual in whom change occurs, and naturally triggers an impact on others in his or her path. We are never an island unto ourselves. Whatever we do for good or for ill we impact others! We are creatures of community because God designed us this way. Adam could not live alone and be satisfied. Just like Pope Francis, we need the people of God or we shrivel and die in our aloneness.
Seek the community of God, and bring the hurting and needy into its healing orb. You cannot meet all the needs of others by yourself; but the body of Christ together has all the necessary gifts.
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