We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 1 Thessalonians 2:8
I’m reading the book, Daring to Hope, about the life and ministry of Katie Davis Majors in Uganda and longing stirs within me for the community atmosphere she describes. She lives in a house with her 14 adopted daughters and yet, at any given time a newborn orphan who lost his mother in childbirth, a dying mom with her five children under 10, or the town drunk with a scathing leg injury occupy her guestroom, living room floor and dining room table. Her house is open for all who need her and to each person who enters she shares the love and life of Christ.
Katie writes, “I wanted people to understand the Gospel not because of our words but because of the way we lived. This lifestyle of sharing and inviting others in – to sit at our tables, rest on our couches, shower in our bathrooms, and sleep in our beds – goes against everything Western culture teaches about valuing personal space and privacy. With all these extra people, quiet and personal space were things of the past. I used to find it inconvenient, disruptive, even uncomfortable. But God continued to stretch me more and more and to teach me that this interruptible, public lifestyle is the way He desires me to live and to love. So we made a conscious decision as a family to welcome all to our table. I began to practice the art of being interrupted. As I chopped pounds and pounds of vegetables, I prayed that people would be not only filled physically at my table but also filled spiritually in our home.” (Pg 59)
I’ll be honest, while part of me is filled with longing and desire to live this out, another part of me screams that I’m failing miserably at this so don’t even try. You’ll never do it as good as Katie. Shut the book and move on. That’s not your calling!
In 2 Peter, Peter talks about the Day of the Lord saying,
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
And Paul says in Romans,
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:13-15
And Jesus says to His disciples before His ascension,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
Aren’t I called, just like Katie, to share the love and life of Christ with those around me and to encourage other believers to do the same?
But, how do I do this without community?
This past weekend I was at my daughter’s gymnastics competition. Her club was hosting the competition and numerous volunteer hours were required for it to run smoothly, so I spent the better part of two days surrounded by 5-17 year old girls. The love, compassion, empathy and care I witnessed melted my heart. From the office I was volunteering in I could hear the girls’ continuous shouts of support for their teammates and competitors. While one girl was competing in her event, the rest of the team cheered her on. ‘You got this Megan!’ ‘Come on Macie!’ ‘Let’s go Alex!’ ‘You can do this Emma!’ And shouts of joy would erupt as their teammate landed the dismount.
It’s easy to celebrate the successes. But that’s not all I witnessed. As I moved around the competition floor, I saw community. There were numerous examples of teammates consoling a devastated gymnast after her routine didn’t go as hoped. I saw older gymnasts encouraging younger ones when they were struggling with a move, and gently coaxing them off the sidelines when they wanted to give up. And I saw teammates surrounding an injured gymnast with compassion and concern as they genuinely cared for her well-being.
These girls don’t get to choose their teammates. They are different ages and races. They come from various parts of the city. They have different strengths and weaknesses. And ultimately they are competitors when on the floor. But their love of gymnastics unites them. It’s hard work. There are injuries involved. They have numerous successes and set backs. Highs and lows. Dreams get realized. And hopes get dashed. But these girls, from a very young age, learn that they can endure through community.
Community is how we believers endure as well.
We are told over and over again in Scripture that suffering is part of the Christian life.
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12
It’s a scary thought. None of us want to face persecution. And definitely not alone. Those of us who persevere, those of us who endure, do so because of community. Other believers who come alongside us and lift us up out of the pit, tend to our wounds, and gently redirect our gaze from ourselves onto the cross of Christ.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 1 Corinthians 3-5
Life is messy. It’s full of awkward and uncomfortable situations. But if we’re willing to look past our own discomfort and get a little dirty we will find beauty hidden within.
I was reading in my devotions this week in Exodus about Joshua defeating the Amalekites. The only way he could win the battle was if Moses lifted up his hands and the staff of God towards the throne of the Lord. When Moses’s arms grew weary and he lowered them, Joshua and the Israelites would find themselves on the losing side. And so, Aaron and Hur, recognizing a need, come alongside Moses and support his arms. One on one side, one on the other, they hold up his arms for the remainder of the battle until the Israelites overcome and victory is won.
There is something beautiful about walking with someone through the battle and coming out the other side in victory. Joy is seen when we sit with someone in the dark and finally see light peaking over the horizon. When we join with others in community we endure the suffering, yes, but we also get to celebrate when the wounds are healed.
The women’s bible study at my church is doing a Beth Moore study called “Entrusted”. In it, Beth says, “We…are placed by God right in the eyeshot of unbelievers who can refuse to look up but can’t help looking out.” (Pg 116)
What will they see when they look at us? What will they see when they look at the church?
Will they see love? Will they see the gospel lived out in a way that they can understand its message? Will they see a willingness to serve? A willingness to walk with the wounded and embrace the weary? Will they see genuine community?
God has placed each one of us upon this earth to fulfil His purpose. We are where we are for a reason. He has gifted us with a unique set of abilities and experiences to serve and help those He places in our path. Will we step out in obedience? There is so much need around us right here in our own communities, churches and homes. Will we open our hearts and homes to the hurting and offer them the only life that truly sustains, Jesus Christ?
We have what it takes to be mighty servants of God, let’s live like it.
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.