By Bryan Jackson
Community is ___________ (fill in the blank). Hard. Frustrating. Scary. Vulnerable. Life-giving. Maturing?
I think most people wouldn’t say being in community matures them because I believe that most people are settling for a watered-down version of God’s design for them. We think of living in community as being a part of the bar scene, sitting at Starbucks, or having people to watch the Cowboys with. But, is that really God’s best for us? Living in community is about experiencing authentic relationships that have the gospel at the center, not necessarily ourselves. And the beauty of community is that since we have been accepted by Christ, despite our differences (our sinfulness compared to his perfection), we are able to live in these relationships with people who aren’t exactly like us and accept them as well, exactly as they are.
I used to think that being “happy” in a community group was having all the guys be just like me. Because, after all, if we all thought the same, loved the same stuff and laughed at the same jokes then there wouldn’t be any conflict and everything would be great – which in my opinion is what God wants for me. Sound familiar?
But I learned two things by being in a group with guys who aren’t exactly like me: first, I have blind spots. Lot’s of them. I’m prideful and hide behind false humility. I have control issues out the wazoo and am fearful of God stretching my faith. I am able to recognize these blind spots in my life because my guys helped me see them. So it begs the question, “why could they see them when I couldn’t?” Simple, because they are different than me. They are wired differently than me, see the world differently than me, some are more sensitive than me, etc. They helped me see what I couldn’t because we aren’t exactly the same. God uses people who are different than you to shape and transform your spiritual life into one of increasing Christlikeness.
Second, I realized that the gospel changes the way I not only see myself, but how I see other people. My sin separated me from a perfect God to the extent that I had no hope for salvation on my own. But God, being rich in mercy, demonstrated his love for me in that while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). He accepted a pitiful, broken, hopeless sinner because of his Son. I realized that who am I to not accept a fellow brother in Christ who has also been accepted by God? Is my requirements bar higher than God’s? Of course not! That’s ridiculous to even write…but I felt that way at times. The gospel has transformed me into God’s son and is transforming into more of what brings him glory.
I can accept those that are different than me because I know that God has accepted me already and that God can use differences in people to sharpen us (Proverbs 27:17). Plus, I would hate being with a bunch of “me's” all the time…