One of my greatest sources of amazement in life is watching people “discover” truth that they could have known for themselves much earlier if they had simply been willing to listen to someone who knows better. For instance, if you do a google search for the exact phrase “men and women are different,” you will be surprised at the results. I am not sure why this should be such an amazing discovery or why cataloging the differences is so important, but it appears that a lot of people have consumed a lot of time to discover that it is in fact the case.
I bring this up because one of the groups of people most prone to this in my experience are those who ignore God’s wisdom in favor of their own only to discover that God actually knows what He is talking about in that crazy book of His also known as the Bible. Latest case in point that I have run across is atheists who are demonstrating that people are made for community. I will admit that it may have been lost on them why churches really exist in the first place because not many churches are doing very well at community lately. The simple truth is that God designed us for community with Himself and each other.
Look back through the Bible for a few minutes. God didn’t make us for destruction. His desire isn’t to send people to hell or make their lives miserable. He created Adam and Eve with fellowship and community on His mind. He set apart the nation of Israel as a community and gave them the task of showing the world how community was supposed to be. He has done the same thing with the church. Granted, we tend to mess it up pretty badly at most every turn, but that says more about our fallen nature than it does about His. Imonk confirmed my thinking about this earlier this week with a post he recycled from a few months ago called Just Beyond the 100th Time which includes this description of our longing as humans:
We long to be human beings, fully alive to who we are, to God, to one another and to all that being made in the image of the incarnated God means.
We long for beauty, for multiple expressions and experiences of beauty.
We long for relational and emotional connection; to know we are not alone; to love and be love; to be heard and to hear our human family.
We were made for relationship; first to God and then with each other. Our best moments as humans come in the fulfillment of relationships and not in isolation. When I watched the coverage last week celebrating the 40th anniversary of the moon landing and first moon walk, I was struck by the thing that most resonated with all of the people they showed. The biggest emotion they expressed was the feeling that the whole world was united in its joy of the moment. Whether or not that was true can be debated, but everyone that I saw on those 40 year old clips was overcome with emotion at the thought of the world “coming together as a community” in essence.
When I was reading this article about atheists and the communities or services, this statement caught my eye:
Elsewhere, ties that bind the faithless continue to grow stronger, even without ritual per se. After one member of the North Alabama Freethought Association was robbed earlier this year, fellow members collected a few hundred dollars to see him through to payday. And when another was injured in a motorcycle accident, atheists brought meals every day for him and his caretakers.
“It makes me sit back and smile to know that this community has built itself up in a way that they’re looking out for each other, watching each other’s backs, and supporting each other,” says Mr. Scott, who founded the Alabama group six years ago. “It almost makes me feel fatherly — like you raised your child right.”
Whether they would like to admit it or not, this is consistently in line with what Christianity is all about in the Bible (i.e. they have just “rediscovered” truth). Don’t believe me? Look at Acts 2:45, “and they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
I started the post by saying that most of these things amaze me, but this one cuts a little deeper, because it touches a problem that the church hasn’t fully grasped. It could be the reason that the churches in most of America are going backwards and/or dying. Not only are many churches failing to preach the gospel; many are failing to live it out in community as well.
I am reminded of the words of James,
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17)
For atheists who may stumble across this post and wonder what I am trying to say, let me say it simply. Christianity isn’t a religion concerned with following rules or simply “doing the right things”; it is a relationship with the God who made you and gave you life and knows you inside and out. That relationship was broken by us and then restored by Jesus Christ:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
God’s desire has always been for reconciliation of the relationship, not destruction of the other party, but He will not force His love on anyone at any time.
For Christians who are reading this post, I pray that your heart is drawn back to the heart of God for community among His people called according to His purpose. It is messy and frustrating, but it is one of the reasons that God has left us here instead of just taking us home right away. We are supposed to be the living witness of the Word of God for the world to see:
17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)(emphasis mine)
When we are reconciled to God in Jesus Christ, we then become a messenger of that same reconcilliation, a person God uses to right relationships with everyone through His Son. We live this out in community because that is God’s design.