“in Christ” equals community in Christ

Make room in your hearts for us; we have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I often boast about you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with consolation; I am overjoyed in all our affliction.

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted in every way—disputes without and fears within. But God, who consoles the downcast, consoled us by the arrival of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was consoled about you, as he told us of your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced still more. For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it (though I did regret it, for I see that I grieved you with that letter, though only briefly). Now I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance; for you felt a godly grief, so that you were not harmed in any way by us.

2 Corinthians 7:2-9

Like any community and any person for that matter, there are difficulties which are not easy to work through. The letters in the New Testament are to anything but tidy churches. If there isn’t a problem which needs serious attention now, there will be one soon. And that’s in part because relationships and building them, seeing them mature, just holding on to them is neither automatic nor easy.

But the life of Christ is found in community. Yes, between oneself and Christ, but it never stops there. God never meant humans to live alone. As we’re told at the beginning of Genesis, that’s not good. I am convinced that just one of the major tactics of the enemy is to isolate us, make us feel like we’re alone, divide us, anything but promote unity. Unless it’s a unity set against Christian unity. And even that unity is more than precarious.

I believe there’s a true sense in the thought that we find Christ in each other. But that doesn’t mean in everyone, and not even everyone who names the name of Christ. And this is especially the case when we’ve been absent for awhile or when life has hit us particularly hard like when we face threatening opposition or feel that all is lost and we as well. We need each other in Christ.

This coming together is about appreciating God’s grace in each of one us in Christ, thankful for the strengths and in love looking over the weaknesses. Holding each other up in prayer. It certainly includes ongoing repentance along the way.

The difference between night and day, despair and an adrenaline of hope, life and death. All in the love of God by the Spirit in and through Jesus.

loneliness

When God created Adam there comes a point in the narrative where we read that God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable/corresponding to him.” We know the end result: the creation of Eve. And while this results in nothing less than the institution of marriage, it brings out another important point about our humanity: humans are made for relationships and communion.

I am grateful to God for a loving wife with whom I have unbroken communion, of course having to fix this and that along the way, mostly due to sin or weakness on my part.  And I’m grateful to God for the good friends he has given me: at church, at work, in other ways, and even those I’ve yet to meet in person but have come to appreciate through the internet.

But in the end what Augustine wrote is true: The human heart is restless and finds no rest until it rests in God. We were made for communion with each other, but not apart from communion with God. We need that communion with God first and foremost. Then out from that we need communion with others.

What do we do with our inevitable sense of loneliness? All kinds of things which in themselves may be good, but out of place are quite destructive. When the one thing we need, and need to cultivate is communion with God. Involving a drawing near to God. A mind to listen, so that we can have a heart to listen. An openness. And with that comes an utter dependence on God and on God’s grace, an increasing sense of our great need.

And then from there, like any relationship it needs cultivation. And time. Yes, we live in God’s Presence at all times, but we need those special times of drawing near. One time when I was a young Christian, years and years ago now, I decided to have a “date with God.” I still remember that day rather vividly. God in his love met me in a powerful way out at that park as I pored over some scripture passages on grace. Life goes on, and I failed to really make that fellowship the priority in my life it is to be. Yes, Christianity and my involvement in the faith was always a part of my life. But not nearly as much in this way as God wants it to be.

Loneliness in this life at least in the sense of longing for more can’t be avoided to be sure. But are we first and foremost seeking to cultivate a communion with God which extends to each other in Jesus? And not meant to stop there, but to spur us on in God’s love to reach out to the world in word and deed in Jesus. So that others would come to know this same love with us.