Isn’t it beautiful?
Don’t you just LOVE spending time in fellowship with fellow believers? If you’re like me, you don’t even have to be talking specifically about those key Sunday School answers (God! Jesus! The Bible!) to enjoy this time. Community is something that has been on the forefront of my mind lately, most likely because both our SAO Bible studies and the college ministry at my home church are studying Philippians, specifically Chapter 1, right now.
Here are a few of my thoughts on this chapter:
Verse 3: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.”
We use this verse a lot as a cutesy little, “I love you! I care about you! You rock!” But do we really do this? Do you really and truly thank God every time you think about your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you considered their purpose in your life, why God has put them in your life? I can’t honestly say I do this 100% of the time. Although, I do tend to randomly dig deep and try to figure out why specific people are in my life (in the words of Sara Beth, “I’m a dreamer and and a thinker, I analyze everything to death“)…but that’s a story for another day.
Verses 7-8: “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.“
Do you yearn for community? Do you crave it? And not just with your cool friends that are super hip and trendy and just happen to love Jesus. We are so quick to flock to people who are similar to us, even within our specific little Christian sect. Think about it: denominations, churches, Christian organizations on campus. I am guilty of this. There are people around me that love Jesus that I have a really hard time loving. What a waste of community!! Instead of criticizing those people and not wanting to spend time with them, why don’t I pray that the Lord stir up a friendship and use us to reach our campus? Why not let it be an opportunity for the Lord to be glorified? Think about 1 John 2:9-11. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” I would like to be in the light. Stumbling is no good. Look for community. It’s all around you…it’s there…even if you don’t think you like those people. One more thing…the last part of those verses. Paul doesn’t just yearn for the Phillipians…he yearns for them with the affection of Jesus. Whoa. That’s a whole lotta love (cue Led Zeppelin).
Verses 27-28: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”
“..striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” I LOVE that! It doesn’t necessarily have to be physically side-by-side either. You can serve with people by praying for and encouraging them, sharing scripture with them, little things like that that go a long way. Doing this from a distance helps in advancing the Gospel to other places, to other people. This also widens our community.
Let’s go back to the first part of 27: “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” To me, this fits in with those verses form 1 John. Is our community worthy of the Gospel? Are we taking advantage of what God has put right in front of us? If not, we are wasting a very valuable resource. This verse also reminds me of Francis Chan’s talk at Passion this year, about our lives not being anything crazy–just balanced with the Gospel. In turning a shoulder to our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are turning our shoulder on Christ Himself. I don’t know about you, but I feel like turning from Christ isn’t really all that balanced with the Gospel. Obviously this is just a bit of what these verses tell us, but I think it’s something that we tend to overlook because it says something we don’t really want to hear.
Take advantage of your community. Love on your brothers and sisters in Christ, even those you aren’t really a big fan of. Guess what: Jesus is a big ol fan of them.