Deep Relationships. How?
I started off my last blog about my closest friends and how we love being around each other and laugh together until the cows come home. (That’s a Texas expression, right?) But is that the standard of deep relationships? Once we’ve laughed together all night with someone, have we made it? Is that how we measure community and relationships?
In short, my answer is no. Here’s the harsh truth about real community that some may be surprised to hear. We must pay a price. To be in true, authentic, deep, real community, it costs us something. We lose some of our space, time, and freedom to do as we please. It’s easy to be in isolation. I can do and be whatever I want. There’s no one there to challenge me or disagree with me. However, it’s costly to belong—but it’s also tremendously more satisfying.
Deep relationships don’t just occur through doing common activities together. On Sundays, we can gather around and watch football, eat guacamole, and go home. We can enjoy that tremendously. (Who doesn’t?) But there is no community forged there. We just did what we already liked to do, except this time we did it together.
We need a theology of friendship before we can enter into deep friendship. Suffering is the same way. If we don’t know why we suffer, when we enter suffering, we are hurt, confused, and angry. If we don’t know why we have friendships, we can end up hurt, confused, and angry. In the end, friendship and suffering aren’t that much different.
I want to argue that real relationships are forged around four things: Rejoicing, mourning, confession, and mission.
The first thing Gospel community creates is joyful rejoicing. That may sound redundant, but it shouldn’t be. The bible instructs us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12.15). Laughter should be a stable of our time together in deep relationships. We should rejoice in promotions, marriages, salvation… anything. And we should laugh at ourselves. I think that’s just being humble enough to not take ourself too seriously.
Secondly, Gospel community is joined around being joyfully defiant toward our disappoint. The second half of Romans 12.15 is “mourn with those who mourn.” It’s going to happen. You’re going to be around those who suffer, and you’re going to suffer. God, by His grace, puts those people around us to care for us in our suffering. In the same way, we’re called to be around those who suffer. Proverbs says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” You want this brotherhood or sisterhood with your relationships? Love at all times, especially in adversity.
Third, Gospel community is formed around being joyfully defiant toward our sin. My closest friendships know my darkest sins. Now, I’m not saying you come to Life Group next week, and lay it all out there. That’s awkward. But as you form deep relationships, yes, we confess where we need the grace of God in our lives. And the group can pray and joyfully fight together against sin. To neglect confession is to neglect sin. To neglect sin is to deny it’s existence. To deny it’s existence is to deceive ourselves and rob the cross of it’s power. In confession, we announce Christ’s victory and power over sin. We help share each others burden. Ignoring sin ignores the grace found in Jesus. We are not perfect. Jesus is perfect. We are sinners. He has no sin. Let’s celebrate that. Let’s point to Him in our sin.
Lastly, Gospel community is built primarily by rejoicing in our Savior. First, we are joyful about Jesus conquering our sin and being sovereign over our disappointments. This leads to sharing this joy with others. We are united around this Gospel mission. If you were ever on a sports team, you know this to be true. When we have a common goal together, we automatically are bonded together around a task. Jesus has given us the task of making disciples of all nations, and this is what we do. We talk about what matters most in our lives and what gives us most joy. That’s just natural. And as Christians, that thing should be Jesus. So it should flow in our natural conversations with all people, especially our Christian brothers and sisters. We are on mission for Christ and His Kingdom.
Milwood Baptist Church, let us be resolved to build community. It comes at a cost. The call to follow Christ is a call to die (Luke 9.23). Community gathered around Jesus calls us to the same. But it is worth it. It makes our yoke easy and our burden light (Matthew 11.30)
“Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
Read Alex's testimony HERE.