Jesus says a lot of good stuff in the Gospels...
So much that even when breezing over a few pages in your Bible reading plan or checking out a blog, you may still pick up some truth-packed nuggets while drinking your coffee and waking up. In this blog, we’ll unlock a few gems from a familiar verse:
Love God. Love people. Mean it. Jesus made following him pretty simple. Definitely not easy, but simple nonetheless. The complications of following Jesus come as a result of good, old-fashioned human brokenness. We kind of fumble around in prayer with some shallow “hallelujahs” and then stumble into our families and friend groups with deep fears and insecurities. For many, the pain of seeking to simply follow Jesus and falling embarrassingly short is just exhausting. The sting of those failures can leave us running into isolation and unhealthy spiritual independence; or spiritual co-dependence and worship of religious constructs.
How do we break out of these cycles?
Jesus came to establish a Kingdom. Kingdoms are comprised of individuals. By nature, individuals flock to groups and small communities based on appearances, interests, stages of life, occupation, etc. The Kingdom Jesus came to establish is identified as the Church and within it are communities illustrated by age, color, economic portfolio, gender, background, and the list goes on. The solution to what feels complicated in following Jesus (specifically related to loving people) is embracing the Church right where you are. The answer is Jesus-centered Community… but you already knew that.
It is under-defined in the sense that it is frequently left up to personal interpretation. When someone says the word “community” it brings thousands of ideas and references to mind. We all come to the table with thoughts about what community could and should look like and we often end up disappointed when it doesn’t turn out quite like we thought.
It's worshiped in a sense that once our subjective idea of community is solidified in our minds, we won’t be persuaded into revising those ideas. We can’t just manufacture our imagined (or preferred) communities based on what we’ve seen, read, or listened to. It may not apply everywhere and it may not be what we actually need.
Community is misrepresented in the fact that most of us have seen some of what human brokenness can produce firsthand. We’ve seen mistakes made and people hurt time and time again. It may be time to begin the process of healing.
All of these issues affect our opinions and preferences on community and likely come as a result of putting Jesus on the sideline. Community is very simple. Not easy; simple. (see Acts 2:42-47 ESV).
They understood where they were, the culture surrounding, and the mission at hand. They were a family, on a mission, at war. Our friend groups, families, and local churches didn’t just happen to us. They’re not coincidental, they are gifts from Jesus. Waiting behind the way they dress, look, talk, and even think is an opportunity to fall more in love with Jesus. Jesus goes so far as to say that our love for the Church is a way we’re identifiable as believers (see John 13:35 ESV).
Community isn’t an obstacle to Mark 12:30-31. It’s the means.
The way we chase our communities is like a gauge for how well we can love Jesus (see 1 John 4:21). With Jesus off the bench and at the center of our relationships, we begin to define community by the love we share, the God we worship, and the Gospel we represent. The rest is history.
Don’t dream of a group who looks like you and talks like you. Embrace the group that loves you and will help you look more like Jesus.
Discover Jesus' Passion for community in the Gospels. Fall in love with his leadership and commitment to the growth and development of his friends.
Talk to a leader in your life about how to get more involved in your church. If you’re a loner, don’t be. Get off your couch and go meet people. Let them push you to greatness. If you’re a social butterfly, take another look at your friend list. Who actually knows you? Who’s asking about your spiritual health? Go deeper!
Allow the mission to define the team. Jesus understood his mission to give the world “life and life abundantly” as the means of gauging success in his community. Don’t let your community “win” be just a board game and some snacks. Press on to know Jesus and make him known.