I want you to consider two questions with me today:
- How many people do you know?
- How many people know you?
If I were scroll through the contacts on my phone or search through my Facebook friends or look at the people I follow on Twitter, I could come up with a fairly long list of people I know. I could tell you where they lived, what they did for work, who they were married to, what their kids were doing, and even a few personal preferences or hobbies.
The opposite would also be true - there's a fairly long list of people who would know where I live, what I do, who my wife and kids are, and a few things that I enjoy in my free time. But here's the real question - how many people do I actually know, and how many people really know me?
I'm afraid that, in the body of Christ, we settle for terminally casual relationships all the time. Sure, we have acquired some superficial data on people we call friends, but we don't actually know them. We participate in weekly or monthly "church fellowship" but there's actually very little fellowship going on.
Before we go anywhere, we need to start with God (that's always a good place to start!) Think about this amazing fact - God himself is community. The Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - are three equal and different members of the Godhead. They don't just live in community with each other; they are a perfectly functioning community.
Everything Jesus does is in full concert and absolute agreement with the Father and the Spirit (and vice-versa). The three members of the Holy Trinity move, act, live, and speak as One. So naturally, when God made human beings in His image, He designed us to be community beings. We were created as social people.
Here's what that means: you will never properly be who you were designed to be and do what you were designed to do without living in intimate, personal, intentional community with others. To live a full life - right here, right now - God has called you to participate in humble, open, honest, consistent, committed, and dependent relationships with those in the body of Christ.
Who Knows You?
As with all things, sin has ruined God's original design intent. We have become masters at casual conversations and non-answers. We have honed our skills at deflecting questions and staying hidden. Ignore your long list of contacts, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers: how many people actually know you, and how many people do you actually know?
Here are a few questions that get past the public persona:
- How many people know the specific places where you are susceptible to temptation?
- How many people know the responsibilities that tend to overwhelm you?
- How many people know the idols that war on the turf of your heart?
- How many people know the secrets of your past that still haunt you?
- How many people know the places where you try to find substitute identities?
- How many people know the reasons why you might doubt the goodness and power of God?
Of course, the opposite would be true - how many of those questions could you answer about someone you call a friend? You see, your life was meant to be a community project. You were never meant to live in isolation. You simply weren't meant to do life on your own.
I'm deeply persuaded that if you begin to believe in spiritual community and true fellowship, your life will begin to be shaped by two character qualities. First, you will be shaped by the COURAGE OF LOVING HONESTY. You will want relationships where truth can be spoken, where honesty lives, and where candor thrives. Truth should be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15), but you won't be afraid of what will be revealed about your heart and life.
Second, your life will be shaped by the HUMILITY OF APPROACHABILITY. When sins and weaknesses and failures are revealed about you, you won't rise to your own defense. You won't summon your inner defense lawyer and try to argue for your own righteousness. You will admit your need for help and run to where help can be found - Jesus Christ and the promise of a new heart.
Here's the Gospel - Jesus went to the Cross with your name. He knew in advance that you would be a messy person, and that your life of faith would be marked by sin and doubt and weakness - but He still went! There is nothing that could be exposed about you that Jesus hasn't already taken care of, and if you are child adopted by the God of the universe, you have every reason to live with courage, honesty, humility, and approachability.