In our culture superficial relationships are the norm, and we experience very little that could pass for deep friendship. But in the church — the community called to reflect Christ’s self-giving love — it really shouldn’t be this way.
“Cultivate this mindset in your community,
which is in fact a community in Christ Jesus,
who, although being in the form of God,
did not consider his equality with God as something to be exploited for his own advantage,
but rather emptied himself [of all but love!]…”
This is how biblical scholar Mike Gorman translates the beginning of the passage we read Sunday morning, from Philippians 2.
So my question is this: if we are “in fact a community in Christ Jesus,” what does that mean for the kinds of relationships we form and share with one another?
Do we care enough about cultivating our life together that we will adopt the attitude of Jesus Christ, who “emptied himself” for us? who wasn’t worried about what suited his own personal needs best, but what suited the needs of others?
I was talking with some friends yesterday about how busy our lives are — we actually see it as work to find time to spend with friends. Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Friendship can be one of the greatest sources of life for us. But we neglect it. We spend little time investing in friendship, and then wonder why our lives feel stressful and isolated.
We were created for community. In the beginning God said it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. In our churches, we often stress the importance of families, but don’t realize how isolating that can be too. Do we realize that the New Testament books are always addressed to a community of believers, not just individuals or even families? Such instructions as “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2), “confess your sins to one another” (James 5:16), and especially “welcome one another as Christ welcomed you” (Romans 15:7), are designed to shape our life together. We are “in fact a community in Christ Jesus.” So let’s build that community together in the same love he has given us.
As I said Sunday morning, “The shape of our life as a community is our best means of showing the people around us that there’s a place for them in the story of Jesus Christ. That kind of invitation doesn’t come simply at the expense of a Sunday morning smile or even a warm handshake or a hug. It comes at the investment, the cost, of sharing our lives with one another.”