I came across a great encouragement today, on preserving the bond of unity and peace in our community groups. Be Encouraged:
One of the ways Satan attacks biblical community is instilling a fear of the inability to trust other people. This fearfulness will tell the lie that if we share with others what is actually going on in our lives or what we are really thinking, people will take this knowledge and use it to exploit us, harm us, embarrass us, and ultimately ruin us.
The lie is that choosing instead to go through life alone, will be safer. The enemy wants us to walk ahead with blind independence, fearlessly making our own way. We begin to believe it would be better to risk harming our own lives through isolation than to have our lives ruined by the idiocy of others. We make choices and then face whatever may come with the reckless rationalization that whatever may happen is a safer path than seeking counsel and allowing someone else (potentially) to hurt us.
The Bible tells us a different story, God’s Word invites us to experience real freedom in His love. He says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18. It is worth noting that the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. I am praying this section convinces you that indifference to the love God offers you within grace-informed community will lead you to a place you’ll hate. What is the solution then? You have to love the Truth that pursuing God’s will and way, even with imperfect people, is going to be better for us than trying to make our way through life alone. To our own detriment, we often choose to pursue life alone outside of biblical community because we fear what could happen more than we trust what the love of God declares to us in His Word. We know an enemy of ours who loves to recommend this way of thinking (Gen. 3:4, John 8:44, 1 Peter 5:8).
When we really become aware of the perfect love of God expressed through the grace of Jesus, it changes our willingness to be real with other people. On countless occasions, I have witnessed the love of God miraculously releasing people to be courageous enough to share details of their lives or stories in ways they never dreamed they would be able to do. And the result of sharing—or trusting in God’s wisdom that calls His children to live in authentic community with others in His body—produces life-giving freedom and blessing not only in their lives but also in the lives of everyone around them.
I’ve heard hundreds of people express that, in sharing, they found for the first time what they had always hoped might exist: a group of normal people—full of not-so-normal grace—who live authentically with one another and who will readily accept and love them right where they are. This is because those “normal people” have been accepted and have received grace and love themselves—beggars who have found an abundance of bread and are now willing to share it with others who are as hungry as they are. Community is where the radical beauty of grace is most readily seen. God wants you to experience this kind of love, and it is worth the risk to find it. True love never lets you do what you want to do without consequence ( 1 Corinthians 13:6, Proverbs 23:14, 27:6).
Real love speaks truth to you as you do what you do, reminding you there are consequences while always creating the avenue for hope and restoration. Some of us don’t trust people because, in the past, we’ve been around people who haven’t fully trusted God themselves. The psalmist actually reinforces the wisdom of not trusting these kinds of people when he says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” (Psalm 1:1)
You may not want to be in community because you’ve been in community before … with fools. You may have asked them what they think you should do only to receive very unwise counsel from them. Or perhaps they took your information and tried to control or hurt you with it. But don’t throw out truth just because someone else has not been trustworthy. Don’t abandon the truth of God’s Word because you ran into someone who exhibited His Truth poorly. Scripture begs us to be wise about choosing our community. It never promises us it will be easy, painless, or free from problems.
The potential for experiencing the love of a real friend in a real relationship is so much better than the superficial acceptance of a fake friend. Scripture does not promise us a pain-free experience in real, biblical community, but it does promise us we will experience pain and problems if we refuse it.
We are counseled to do our best to take great care in yoking our lives to others, ( 2 Corinth. 6:14) but we are not given the option to avoid it altogether. So by all means, you must be careful about those with whom you yoke yourself. You must find others walking these paths of grace for themselves. Otherwise, how can they care for you, sharpen you, or speak into the process of your path? Scripturally, if you walk in community with wicked people, you will become more wicked—and probably think that you are right in becoming so. And they will scoff at your efforts to become who God wants you to be.
As you look back, realize your problem may not have been with the idea of biblical community itself but when you shared with someone that did not reflect Christ-likeness. Perhaps you have been “doing business” or have been friends with those whom you should flee—those who are selfish, self-righteous, or spiritually indignant. Perhaps you are surrounded by people who are not disciples of Jesus (Proverbs 13:20). Perhaps these people do not acknowledge their own brokenness, their need for grace, or their own ongoing process of sanctification as they follow Christ with you—not above you—in humility together.
In real, Christ-seeking, grace-centered community where the love of God and submission to the truth of His Word is humbly and equally shared with everyone around the table, there is no reason to fear. In this kind of community, the people are far from perfect, but the love is absolutely perfect … because it’s the love of a perfect Savior.
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinth. 1:10
And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thess. 5:14
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Col. 3:13
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16
All the believers were together and had everything in common. Acts. 2:44
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 2 Corinth. 12:9
Excerpt from Come and See: Everything You Ever Wanted in the One Place You Would Never Look by John Driver and Todd Wagner