Thoughts on living in community from a book I’ve been reading called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson that reflect my own fears that perhaps I’ve made my faith a little too much about myself and too little about belonging to a community of believers. This also helps me to pinpoint what I so love about our new church home at Gateway Community Church… the believers here are committed to each other as a family. It is a gift to be accepted graciously despite your unlovely qualities:
There are Christians who refuse to respond to the call to worship each Sunday; there are Christians who say, “I love God but I hate the church.” But they are members all the same, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not. For God never makes private, secret salvation deals with people. His relationships with us are personal, true; intimate, yet; but private, no… No Christian is an only child.
But… the people we encounter as brothers and sisters in faith are not always nice people. They do not stop being sinners the moment they begin believing in Christ. They don’t suddenly metamorphose into brilliant conversationalists, exciting companions and glowing inspirations. Some of them are cranky, some of them are dull and others (if the truth must be spoken) a drag. But at the same time our Lord tells us that… If God is my Father, then this is my family.
So the question is not “Am I going to be a part of a community of faith?” but “How am I going to live in this community of faith?” ….Some run away from it and pretend the family doesn’t exist. Some move out and get an apartment on their own from which they return to make occasional visits… and some determine to find out what God has in mind by placing them in this community called a church, learn how to function in it harmoniously and joyously, and develop the maturity that is able to share and exchange God’s grace with those who might otherwise be viewed as nuisances.
(and later on…)
The Bible knows nothing of a religion defined by what a person does inwardly in the privacy of thought or feeling, or apart from others on a lonely retreat… As we come to declare our love for God, we must face the unlovely and lovely fellow sinners whom God loves and commands us to love.