The Importance of Christian Community

Because He Lives  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  46:36
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The Christian community began to form rapidly after Jesus’s ascension. It began to take shape together around Acts 2, when there was a true sense of direction for believers after Pentecost.
Acts 2:42–47 ESV
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Christian community was designed to be one of the primary attractors to Christianity, so the fact that Christians are often one of the primary reasons people leave Christianity is grievous. We, as Christians, were meant to be distinguishable from all surrounding persons by how we treat each other (John 13:34–35)
John 13:34–35 ESV
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“This was the new feature of it.Christ’s love to His people in giving His life a ransom for them was altogether new, and consequently as a Model and Standard for theirs to one another. It is not, however, something transcending the great moral law, which is ‘the old commandment,’ but that law in a new and peculiar form” (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible [Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997], 2:155). We find that this commandment to love is not new, but to love as Christ loved was something new entirely.
Though there was plenty of piety in the religious tradition of the day, there too often was a lack of love, in the sense that Jesus intends. As often happens with religious culture, many religious people of the day had devolved into a caste system based on publicly performative holiness rather than sincere and sacrificial acts of love. Jesus really sends this point home in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37).
Luke 10:25–37 ESV
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
We see this distinction again in James 2, where James defines the line between saying nice words and taking action on behalf of one’s neighbor. It’s easy to say we love someone, but more difficult to love them in a sacrificial way that meets their immediate needs.
As humans, we are wired to crave and seek out community. Cults, though widely regarded as problematic and flawed, seem to have existed as long as people have existed. Why is that so? Because we desire, on a psychological and spiritual level, to be in a place where we are seeking after truth or the transcendent together with others.
Genesis 2:18 ESV
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”
Christian community is meant to be the answer to that longing. Early church leader Augustine said in his book The Confessions of Saint Augustine, “Thou madest us for Thyself, and our heart is restless, until it repose in Thee.” We find ourselves wandering, searching for this belonging with him and with one another, that Christ came to bring us through his death and resurrection.
A last thing to consider is this: the Christian community is both fueled by Christians and fuel for Christians. It is a symbiotic circle. The church is the body of Christ. There isn’t one without the other. There is no Christianity without the Christians (the body); and there is no body without Christianity (that is, the common purpose of following Christ). There cannot be a separation that does not detract from either. The Christian community is not a burden, it is not a detraction from the work of Christ, it is a gift to those who take on Christ’s name. It is an essential, life-changing part of Christian living.
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