06 Nov I can do it on my own
“I can worship God anywhere.”
“I don’t have to be at a church to be the church.”
“I can do it on my own.”
To some degree, this is true.
You can worship God anywhere.
You don’t have to be in a church building to do church or be the church.
But where we go wrong is on that next point…
“I can do it on my own.”
That is false.
That is a lie.
You cannot do life with God on your own without making your life with God something less than what God wants for you.
Let me offer you some reasons to consider:
First, God exists in community. We call this community the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father but yet they are all God. Confused yet? Good…me too. While the concept of the Trinity stretches our understanding well beyond what we’re comfortable with, I think we can all agree that at the very least, if God exists in community, it seems pretty consistent to think that God’s people would do life with Him in community, too.
Second, when we look at the life and ministry of Jesus, it’s interesting to note that Jesus rarely called individuals to follow Him. In most instances, He called pairs of people (think James and John, Peter and Andrew). And when Jesus did call individuals, He called them into relationship with Himself and the people who were already following Him. When Matthew was invited to follow Jesus, he was joining Jesus and Peter, James, Andrew, and John…these guys were already there. So it wasn’t just Matthew and Jesus…it was Matthew and Peter and John and crowds of others.
Third, if we think we can do life with God on our own, without the help and community of others, we are literally doing something Jesus Himself did not do. In Luke 4:16, it says that Jesus went to the Synagogue, as was his custom. This word custom in Greek is the word “etho” – it’s where the word “ethos” comes from. Ethos is the central character of someone or something. It’s who they are or what they’re most about. Ethos is about the heart – what’s most central to a person. You might say ethos is what makes them, them. Jesus’s ethos – His custom, culture, tradition, centering reality – was committed, consistent participation in the life of a local synagogue, which will eventually give way to and shape for Christians as the church.
If you think you can do life with God on your own, you’re literally doing something Jesus Himself refused to do.
But I get what many of you are thinking right now.
“I’ve been hurt by the church.”
“Community is hard…it’s messy…”
“Christians are hypocrites.”
“This church wasn’t there for me.”
Sadly, this list could go on and on…
I’m going to speak more into this tomorrow, but for today, I will say this:
You are right. It is messy. The church can be the most beautiful entity on the planet, but its potential for good exponentially elevates its capacity to hurt and harm. When we are hurt by people and places that are meant to heal, not harm, those wounds are often the most painful.
Perhaps that’s why Paul takes such time and measure to discuss the importance of love – real, deep, agape love – in 1 Corinthians 13.
This text is about relationships, yes, but probably not in the way we think.
It’s a great wedding scripture, but it’s not about marriage directly.
It’s a great verse for lovers, but it’s not about romantic love directly.
It’s actually about what it takes to love one another well as followers of Jesus…in the church.
The church in Corinth (who Paul was writing to) was messed up.
Some of the things they were doing to each other and with each other was wrong on so many levels.
But they were trying, and Paul knew that the only thing – the ONLY thing – that could lead them through the messes they’d made in that church was love for God and love for each other.
Love is patient, because we can all be pretty difficult at times.
Love is kind, because sometimes we’re going to want to yell and scream at one another and there’s got to be a better way.
Love keeps no record of wrongs, because sometimes we drop the ball on the patience and kindness piece and end up yelling and screaming at each other.
Love is…well…you get the point.
Yes, it would be way less messy if we stopped gathering together and just did life with God by ourselves, on our own.
It would be way less messy, but on our own, we cannot fulfill the command of Jesus in John 13:34:
“‘A new command I give you – love one another as I have loved you. By this all people will know you are my disciples: that you love one another.'”
Did you catch that?
It’s not how much Scripture we memorize.
It’s not how vast our theological knowledge is.
It’s not how moral we are.
These things aren’t bad; they just aren’t the thing that Jesus singles out as the one thing that can get the world’s attention like nothing else…
It is our love for one another that reveals Christ to the world like nothing else can.
And last time I checked, you can’t love one another the way Christ has loved you if there are no others around you to love.
Are there risks to Christian community? Yes. Does it get messy and complicated and difficult? You bet.
Is it worth it?
Jesus seemed to think so…and that’s enough for me.