I’ve heard it said, “The church should feel more like waiting in a doctor’s office than waiting for a job interview”.
One assumes a deficiency, pain, neediness, helplessness, and vulnerability. The other assumes a resume, competency, clean slate, and hard work.
In one setting you can bond over a mutual need for healing. You are open and honest about what is wrong with you. The other, you size yourself up compared to other potential hires. You cover your weaknesses and try to highlight your strengths.
So long as we view the christian life as one of resume building, competition, and self-sufficiency will our community be shallow, inauthentic, and unhelpful.
But what if we viewed the christian life as a doctors waiting office. Not at your local office but at the office of our Great Physician?
The good news is that he doesn’t need to run any tests or see your chart. He knows it all already. He sees our wickedness, our self-centeredness. He sees the pride of our hearts to exalt ourselves, to live by our own wisdom. He sees the lust of our heart to steal his glory and satisfy our own desires. He sees our failure and guilt and shame (Proverbs 15:3).
And guess what?
First of all, He isn’t surprised. He isn’t retreating. He isn’t defensive. He is patiently waiting for us to turn to him in repentance and faith (Ezekiel 18:30-32).
Second, He is chasing us down and pursuing us. In Jesus God treats us better than we deserve. Since we could never work our way to Him, he comes to us.
Which is amazing! Have you ever been wounded by someone? Maybe something they said or did really hurt you? You wanted to retreat, withdraw, and protect yourself didn’t you.
Not God. Not YHW. He initiates to us. Not to condemn or judge, but to provide salvation! What we couldn’t do (because our sinful hearts bent inward on preferring ourselves) Jesus did for us. He fulfills the law by condemning sin through Jesus on the cross.
And now there is NO condemnation for those who are in Jesus, amen?!
God made. We strayed. God’s love displayed. God-Man gives grace. Stands in our place. Our sins, erased. Debt paid, always. So fall on your face and give God all praise.
So what does this have to do with community? I think three things:
First: We are all battling sin in the flesh. Nobody is perfect. We are all weak and needy at the foot of the cross. Is this coming out to those close to you? Are you letting them into your mess? Are you letting them give you rebuke and instruction? Are you battling sin or keeping it secretly locked up in the closet? We NEED each other in life and in this fight.
Second: A community shaped by the gospel sees the enticing yet deceitful destruction of sin and is sensitive to those around them living in unbelief. They are missional. Not in a moralistic or self-righteous way but in a redeeming way full of goodness, generosity, and compassion. Do you see sin this way? Do you have this heart of compassion (Matthew 9:35-38)? Your friends need you to have this kind of a mindset.
Third: We are easily forgetful. Just look at Israel (Deuteronomy 8). We need others to be reminded of our sin and God’s accomplished salvation for us, the magnificence glory/goodness of God, and our role to be his kingdom-agents here on earth. Who is reminding you of this?
We all need a gospel – shaped community in our life who will help us in these things. Where we can be free to humbly admit our need for the physician and drop the sin-soaked resume facade.