Christlikeness Happens in Community

cross_people33If the goal of the Christian life is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ—that is, to develop “Christlikeness”—the question we have to ask is, “How does that happen?”

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I’m going to say that the answer is found in the Gospel. The more we preach the Gospel to ourselves every day, the more it will conform us to the image of Christ. But there is another factor: these Gospel truths are to be lived out in a certain way . . . and that way is in community.

At Cross Community Church we like to say that transformation is a community project. We were never intended to live in isolation. The first malediction in the Bible (the first time something was pronounced “bad”) was God’s pronouncement about Adam being alone: “It is not good,” the Lord said (Genesis 2:18). We have been created for relationship and community.

The Bible knows nothing of intentional isolation for the committed Christian. Think about it this way: the Trinity is relational by nature—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—three persons in one in continual community, from eternity past to eternity future. And we have been made in the image of God, which means we have been made for community. As God’s image-bearers, we are intentionally, inescapably relational. Our relationships reflect the community and relationship of our Triune God.

Jesus’ teaching sharpens our focus on this Gospel truth in the following passage.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

Now, the problem we face is a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden. To be sure, we were made for relationship, but after the fall the image of God in us was marred and our relational abilities are hampered by sin. Adam and Eve began the blame game. The first born (Cain) killed the second born (Abel). And the rest of history is one long, dreary story about relationships that are fallen, broken, and dysfunctional.

But in the Gospel, God has graciously bestowed the capacity for community on us once again. The concept of “lay-your-life-down-for-others” was put on display by Jesus as the model for all of our relationships. The Gospel recaptures the relational aspect that was meant for all humanity and assigns it to the body of Christ.

Made by God and made for God, community is the context for growing in Christ-likeness. The outworking of the Gospel is seen in the redemption and restoration of relationships. Sure, we are still broken and we will still hurt each other and mess up our relationships. But the Gospel provides all the grace we need to grow through all of it.

  •  Betrayed? So was Jesus, and Jesus is with you in your betrayal.
  •  Denied? So was Jesus, and Jesus is with you in your isolation.
  •  Falsely accused? So was Jesus, and Jesus is with you in the heartache.
  •  Abandoned? So was Jesus, and Jesus is with you in your loneliness.

God is renewing His broken image in you right now. A significant part of His perfect plan for accomplishing that restoration is located in the realm of relationships and in the context of community. Make no mistake, the more you focus on your relationship with God (vertical) the more you will want to focus on your relationships with others (horizontal). If you want to be more like Christ, you will have to get more engaged in community! And that is the Gospel truth.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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