I recently read “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and I think it may have become my favorite book on the topic of Christian community. In his book, Bonhoeffer says something that I haven’t been able to escape since I read it.
“Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself with belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker that the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure. And that also clarifies the goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation.”
“Sometimes I need to borrow someone’s faith,” a friend recently told me, and honestly, that statement struck me and I was instantly drawn back to Bonhoeffer’s words.
I began to think, “What if we actually lived in community honestly and openly?” Yes, I realize we say that all time.
“Be transparent and vulnerable in community,” we say.
But, what if we actually did it? What if our Community Groups were a place to be completely known and completely loved? What if we viewed community as a gift of grace, meant to draw us closer to Jesus? I think even in trying to create a culture of “being real” with each other, our natural tendency is to hide. We’re calculated in what we’ll share in an attempt to not come across as completely undone. However, the gospel gives us grace enough to press into each and actually be undone.
Here’s reality: life is hard! Yet, God has so gifted us with a means to remind each other of the gospel in Christian community.
We’re needy people and we often forget the truths of the gospel. Life happens, I get it. A person you love, or maybe even you get a diagnosis that knocks your off your feet, or you struggle to connect with a lost family member or neighbor. You hate your job, or your kids drive you crazy. You’re drowning in sin and you just want someone to know, but you’re scared of being seen as a monster or even worse, a fraud. Your marriage is seriously hard work, or maybe you’re going through a break-up and you’re heartbroken. You’re struggling to make ends meet.
We often find ourselves in seasons of life that we hate. What if our Community Groups were a place to let those things be known, and be met with overwhelming grace? A place where our brother helps us remember the gospel? What if we started living as though we actually need each other? We need our brothers and sisters to be beacons of the gospel reminding our confused minds and frustrated hearts of the grace of Jesus. We need to be reminded that we have a good and steady savior who is for us and He is working all things together for His glory and our good. (Romans 8:28)
We’ve got to get over the idea that our brother’s struggles are a burden and inconvenience to us.
The more we see community as a gift that we do not deserve, the more precious we will see our time together. We’ll be quicker to bear our brother’s burdens. Let us be quick to point each other to the gospel. It’s a gift that we even have someone to share our lives with. It’s a gift that we can confess sin and met with grace and restoration. It’s a gift to be able to look at your brothers and sisters and with tear filled eyes say “I’m not okay” and have them love us well enough to shower us with the gospel. Let us remember that God uses gospel community as a real and tangible reminder of who He is. Through it we see the glory and goodness of our King.