And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.John 13:34-35
A Perfect Christian Community
We all have different ideas of what a dream house, an ideal car, or the best job looks like. But how would you depict a perfect Christian community? My description would include:
- All community members are faithful to daily prayer and Scripture.
- All community members have heard all our courses and are applying them in their lives. All of them are growing in Christian character.
- All the leaders have been adequately trained and have the vision, skill, time and energy to follow God’s call; and all the members understand and support their leaders.
- There is perfect unity within the community – among the leaders, members, and the youth. There are no cliques or factions within the community.
- All relationships are doing well – there are no relationship difficulties, strains, grudges or misunderstandings. People patch up broken relationships quickly.
- There is no slander and gossip – every word that is heard is healthy, up-building and encouraging.
- All members are involved in some form of service and are building up the community and wider church in one way or another.
- The community is doing well financially, with all members being very generous with their giving.
- The community youth are catching the vision of the community, and are well on the way to becoming full adult members in the future. All the community youth are choosing to follow God and a vast majority of them stay in community. Their most significant relationships are in the community.
- Community youth work is flourishing, with abundant resources available in all fronts.
- Everyone is trying to evangelise in the school, university, neighbourhood and at the workplace. There is a good response to evangelism work. Because of this, the community membership is flourishing.
- All the members’ needs are taken care of.
- All members of the community live out their call faithfully to the end.
Would I like to live in such a perfect community? Most probably, but I do not think I am qualified to do so. I will bring that community in disrepute because of my unfaithfulness, faults and sins. The reality is – no such community exists – at least here on earth. We are all sinners, and being part of a Christian community does not make us automatically a saint. We are all in the process of being redeemed and growing in Christian maturity. That is why our community is not perfect – because all of us are not perfect. That transformation to Christ-likeness will only end after we breathe our last breath here on earth.
A School of Love
One thing that I learned when I was young in community is that it is like a school of love. In school, we sign up to learn things. God the Father is the principal of the school you are enrolled in. We have the one and same teacher – Jesus Christ. He is the one teaching us new skills – how to love, serve, relate and forgive one another. We also have the same tutor or coach – the Holy Spirit – to give us power to change and be transformed. We have one book all the time we are learning – the Scripture, the Word of God. The Bible is our textbook, our guide, and our map in daily living.
Some features of our School of Love include:
- We enrolled in the school so we can learn Kingdom values, relationships and character; we are here primarily to learn to love and serve one another. We are here to learn to be Christ-like in all things. And we are here also to unlearn the old ways of living and relating to one another before we enrolled in the school.
- We have schoolmates in the community who might have enrolled earlier or later than us – they are ones we primarily apply what we learn from the school.
- Our schoolmates are as imperfect as we are. We sin against each other and we hurt one another. We need to learn to forgive them and ask forgiveness from them as the need arises. In spite of their imperfections, we are called to love and serve them to the end – and that means we will bury one another and take care of each other’s families as we get older and die. Our relationships are eternal and are thicker than blood because we are all bought by the same price – the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- We do not earn any degree after some time – our learning in the school of love is meant to be a lifetime enrolment, unless the Lord calls us somewhere else. Our graduation is in heaven, where Jesus would welcome us and say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
Embracing an Imperfect Christian Community
Our community is the body of Christ here on earth. It can be a great witness for non-believers to see people of different race, age, location and religion to be caring, loving and serving one another. If we do not live our lives well, our community can be a great scandal to people outside looking in. How can our community grow in holiness and zeal for God and become mature? Its members need to grow in holiness and zeal for God and become mature. We all need to set our focus on God, who called us to live this particular way of life, and not on the faults, weaknesses and sins of our brothers and sisters. If we do, then it will only be a matter of time before we give up. God is the source of all grace, and we need to fix our eyes on God in order to live our call in our imperfect community.
I believe that it is God, by His great love and mercy to us, who formed our Christian community. It is by His grace that we can love, serve and live the way of life He has called us into. He is the one who sustains us and makes us grow to become mature men and women of God. Yes, we may need to talk with our leaders on improving how our community functions and also work on some of our relationships to restore them, but let us embrace our imperfect community, made up of imperfect brothers and sisters. Let us be faithful to our call to the end. Heaven is our true home, but God has gifted us a temporary home here on earth – our sick, deficient and imperfect Christian community.
Tom Caballes is a National Coordinator of the Lamb of God, a community of the Sword of the Spirit with seven branches located throughout New Zealand. Tom and his wife Mhel and their two daughters [with his son-in-law and grand-daughter] live in Wellington, New Zealand.