Who likes discomfort? What about pain? Who enjoys the opportunity to get offended? Anyone? Well, I'm sure not many of your raised your hand or shouted a resounding "YES!" to any of those questions, but the truth is all of the above produce good fruit in our lives if dealt with appropriately when the opportunity (yes, I said opportunity) arises.
Community, and I mean TRUE community is uncomfortable. It's also wonderful and exhilarating which that's a good thing because it's the best place to grow and step into your purpose if you're into that kind of thing. And when I say community, I do mean a thriving church community.
James 3:17-18 MSG
17-18Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others.
Let's just stop there for a second. Who finds it easy to get along with others? This isn't just for the two year olds who don't want to share their toys, it's for us adults who want to thrive in life and grow in maturity. Getting along with others requires us to invest our time and not write people off. It requires that we lovingly confront and communicate when need be and then forgive. It means we choose love over gossip because reconciliation is so much more beautiful and rewarding than throwing a tantrum and being right all the time.
Okay... moving on.
It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.
Wait - so walking in true wisdom and living in a healthy community means we can't be two faced? Shoot. But it's so much easier to be passive aggressive. All jokes aside, most of the time if we're not intentional we will slip into gossip, passive aggressive communication, burying issues and then stewing on them. Then when we see "that person" and we end up just smiling and pretending it's all okay when deep down we're burning with fury inside. Then bada bing! We have two faces and offense turns into bitterness and on and on it goes. A lot of times if offense goes un-dealt with, we end up exiting the community (either physically or emotionally) that we were called to invest into by God. Let's choose to have one face instead of being a two headed monster by dealing with issues head on with the truth wrapped up in love. Godly confrontation does not have to be scary or volatile if done in love (seriously, check your heart first because what's in your heart will come out of your mouth whether you like it or not). The end goal should always bring healing, restoration and reconciliation. The goal isn't being right.
You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
So, this thriving, robust, life giving community that we speak of - we can have it, and enjoy the results of it, but only if we do the hard work (ouch) of getting along with one another.
How do we do this? By treating each other with DIGNITY and HONOR. You have to invest dignity and honor into others to see a harvest of perpetual dignity and honor.
DIGNITY: The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.
HONOR: High respect; esteem. A valuing.
Everyone, and I mean everyONE is valuable and deserving of dignity and honor. We are not judge and jury, there is only one worthy of that seat and his name is Jesus.
Sometimes when people walk through the doors of a church and say that they want community, 9 times out of 10 they mean they want others to reach out to them, do all the work, make them feel welcome, and never hurt, offend or confront them. But true and thriving community is a two way street and takes investment from all parties.
When hurt or offense come along, and they will, we then have a choice . Either face the music, let God deal with our heart, forgive, have a conversation if needed and then move on. Or we can choose to let bitterness set in, gossip about what went down, and ultimately bring division. Then the perpetual church hop lives on for some and they exit stage left never to return. Or simply, a social and emotional disconnection takes places that causes the offended party to become a critic instead of a contributor to community. This is not the plan for God's Church! His Bride is meant to be beautiful and unified. And let's be clear, unity does not always mean agreement. We can be unified in our diversity, and so we should be.
At Liberty Church, we don't call our Church Communities "Church Campuses" on purpose, not because there is anything wrong with the name but because community is exactly what we want to build. A campus is a place you go to for the sake of learning which has obvious great value, but a community is a place that you invest your life shoulder to shoulder with others that share a common interest or goal whilst learning along the way either through biblical teaching and or hands on life experience. Our common interest and goal is Jesus and His cause. He is at the center of our relationships and focus of our affection. He is our catalyst to turn our eyes upon those who are not yet home.
When some people hear the word community they automatically think small and insular. But a thriving community grows in health, vibrance and life. It's attractive to those who long for the real thing, and when it's center is Jesus, well - it's an unstoppable force of love that draws in the orphan and abandoned and brings them into family so that they can be made whole. And that journey to wholeness is forged, fought for and cultivated alongside others on the same journey. And those "others" are usually the ones that give you countless opportunities to grow. It may feel like sandpaper at times, but at least the callouses of life are being smoothed out in the midst of uncomfortable community.
You can be crazily talented, gifted to the hilt, full of the best ideas and good intentions... You can do all the right things on the outside, "live right" and keep up appearances - But without love - you're and island unto yourself and just a noisy distraction in the midst of community.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8 Message
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.
2 If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.Love cares more for others than for self.Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.Love doesn’t strut,Doesn’t have a swelled head,Doesn’t force itself on others,Isn’t always “me first,”Doesn’t fly off the handle,Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,Doesn’t revel when others grovel,Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,Puts up with anything,Trusts God always,Always looks for the best,Never looks back,But keeps going to the end.8-10 Love never dies.
That's a beautiful scripture to read at weddings, but actually living it will transform you and the lives of those around you.
May love, true love always be at the center of our conversation, confrontation, and motivation. May the love that rescued us, died for us and reconciled us back to our Father compel us to love one another - no matter what goes down. May that love cause us to get over our differences, offenses and get us to focus our unifying front - JESUS. May His life of service and sacrificial death compel us out of the pews of consumer christianity, and into a life that is lived for others. And may we continue to build Church Communities across the earth that bring the right amount of discomfort which in turn give us opportunity to change and walk in our true identity and purpose. Lastly, lets always remember to bring as many as we can along the journey with us.