Living communally was embedded throughout my Chinese-Christian upbringing. I learned the importance of doing life together and sacrificing for one another in humility—no matter what.
For some reason, I entered college wanting to break away from it all, thinking I could do greater things if I lived outside my comfort zone in the all-Christian-bubble. It seemed dangerous to continue to live in the bubble; I thought I would miss out on evangelistic opportunities.
I came to realize that my idea of real Christian community was different from what Jesus had prayed for his followers. The Christian life, I discovered cannot be lived out as a lone ranger. As a matter of fact, Jesus’ last and final prayer was for his followers to live in unity–in community together:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
God created the body of Christ, but many of us have different definitions of the body or in other words, the kind of community we were intended to be.
In the last moments of Jesus’ ministry, he prayed for himself, his disciples, and the church. The type of unity he prayed for was about coming together to serve a greater purpose: “that the world may believe.”
Jesus knew that this type of community is the best kind of community. It’s a community that was never meant to be exclusive, but rather brothers and sisters in Christ who live, serve, and love together in unity in response to the great love and sacrifice that Jesus demonstrated with his life and death.
Pseudo community vs. Real community
When a group of Christians come together, it’s easy to say the right things and do the right things in order to maintain peace. What’s more attractive than a harmonious group of Christians who love each other all the time and say all the right things?
This is known as pseudo community—and is not the kind of community the Bible asks of us. In real life, we are all different people with different passions, imperfections, and mistakes. When you ask a group of Christians to come together, you are bringing together broken human beings who are trying to live lives that are Christ-acceptable. Their imperfections, mistakes, and baggage should not be hidden in real community, even though bringing them up will make things messy and is disruptive—both of which we all want to avoid. But as James instructed believers,
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (James 5:16).
In order for Christians to confess our sins to one another, dirty laundry will need to be aired and shared. Real community requires more than just doing life together, it requires Christians to live life honestly together.
Good News of Real Christian Community
The greatest thing about all of this is the fact that the Christian community is founded on Jesus Christ who reconciled all things to himself. We have the freedom to live with him and him in us, so we in turn, can live reconciled with each other.
Real community is more than just doing life together and sacrificing for one another. It is more than just the nice things we say to each other to get by. It is more than just a group of Christians who get together.
Jesus prayed for a body of believers who live our messy lives together in realness–loving God and loving people.
Who is one person that you can be real with this week and confess what is really going on in your heart and in your life?
Santine Hsueh is a student finishing her BSN degree at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. She serves as a member of the leadership team for Illinois Greek InterVarsity on her campus and blogs at santinewashere.wordpress.com.