Being in community with others is a messy thing. It’s why most churches opt for the appearance of real fellowship. It’s why most of us choose superficial relationships over the deeply intense ones.
Real, deep, and meaningful community with other believers is messy because we as individuals are messy. We have baggage. We have quirks and idiosyncrasies that we are sure we don’t have. We have opinions and perspectives that others won’t share. The very fact that God has made each of us unique is tainted by our sinful natures into a problem, rather than the gift it was intended to be.
We’ve all been there—that feeling of new relationships where we know just enough about the others to enjoy everything about them! And we are safely anonymous in most ways. We are happy to help and eager to serve the other because not much water has yet passed under the bridge for us. And then real life sets in. People don’t live up to expectations. Poor choices are made or thoughtless words shared or the others just can’t be what we wanted them to be. Or maybe they simply loved us too much not to say something about what they were seeing in us. Wounded or disappointed or simply disillusioned because we put them up so high to begin with, suddenly we aren’t so eager to help anymore. We aren’t so interested in this real relating.
Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News…Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then? I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible. Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them. Galatians 4:13, 15-17
As much as we need real community we need to avoid the false community that isn’t real relationship. The using of one another to assuage fears, boost self-esteem, or just be entertained. We should be cautious of those who seem only interested in winning our favor or “bringing us over to their side.” We should, instead seek out those who want to love and be loved as Christ loves. Those who wish to be open to hearing loving truth even when it comes as a rebuke or correction.
But to be in relationship with those kinds of people we have to be those kind of people. As I said at the beginning: being in community—in real relationship with people—is messy. It is risky and potentially harmful. But it’s also the way we are called to live. It also holds some of the greatest earthly rewards. To be cared for, and to care for others as Paul does the Galatian church. This is community as God intended it. Real love, real interest, real serving.
Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. Galatians 4:19
May God give us a willingness to be real with each other and for each other.