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Living in Community

7 years ago written by

llm-apr14_disc2In “Life Together,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.” Pride is the chief threat to unity among Christians. The highest form of that pride is seen when a believer thinks he or she can operate independently of his brothers and sisters or doesn’t need them. This occurs, for example, when a Christian refuses to walk with other members of the body because of disagreement with their doctrines. The Christian is thinking more highly of himself or herself than he or she ought to think when he or she exalts personal knowledge (though acquired through the use of his or her gifts) over fellowship with the Lord’s family. When the Christian says, “I won’t walk with you because you disagree with my ideas,” the Christian is allowing knowledge (not faith) to puff ego. The Christian has reached the place where he or she believes self-estimate is greater than God’s estimate, according to C.S. Lovett in “Lovett’s Lights on Romans.” God condescends to walk with the worst of us, but there are those believers who won’t walk with some people. Sometimes whole groups of believers separate, claiming they are the only true church or have the only correct way to worship God. In other cases, individuals separate themselves from all forms of organized Christianity, hoping to achieve some greater purity or oneness with the Lord. But that’s impossible because the body of Christ is already one. Since all true Christians are one in Christ, separating from denominations or merging them can’t add to the oneness. Those who refuse to use their gifts to maintain the unity of believers on earth, fail to recognize the interdependence of the body’s various parts. Claiming great wisdom, they use their gifts to feed their own egos and end up dividing those who should be working together for Jesus, according to Lovett. As Paul’s letters to the Corinthians suggest, he was not shy about urging churches to participate in the collection, but their participation was of their own free will. They freely decided to make a contribution (2 Corinthians 8–9). According to “The New International Commentary on the New Testament” by Douglas Moo, “Paul suggests something of the significance of this contribution by calling it a koinonia, literally, a ‘fellowship.’ Here the word clearly means ‘that which is readily shared,’ ‘contribution,’ but there is certainly an allusion to the word’s common use in Paul to denote the loving intimacy of the Christian community. As Paul makes explicit in 2 Corinthians 8:4 and 9:13, the Gentile Christians’ contribution to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem is an expression of this unity and intimacy.” Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus. Keith Porter is the senior pastor of Hillsdale (Mich.) Free Methodist Church. Go to fmchr.ch/gracestudy for the church’s “Means of Grace Study” from which this article was adapted. GROUP DISCUSSION: [1] Read Genesis 1:26-27 and 2:18. Why is it not good for us to live outside of community? [2] Read Ephesians 4:1-3 and 1 Peter 5:5. How does community help to cultivate humility? [3] Why is humility crucial for growing in grace?         .

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