Monday, August 15, 2005

Authentic Community

(This is a devotional I recently wrote for a booklet our church is publishing for an up-coming sermon series.

There is a scene in the film Return of the King (third in The Lord of the Rings trilogy) that always inspires me. Aragorn and his army stand before the gates of Mordor, where a great evil army awaits. Meanwhile, Frodo, the one chosen to carry the ring, is at the threshold of Mount Doom, just moments away from finally throwing the all-powerful ring into the fires there, destroying it and its’ evil forever. In the silence before the battle begins at Mordor, Aragorn stands alone in front of the army, looking toward Mount Doom. He slowly turns around to those behind him, friends who need hope, inspiration. With tears in his eyes, he whispers, “For Frodo.” And with these words, the army charges into the battle.

When I watch this scene, I’m touched by Aragorn’s obvious devotion to his friend and his willingness to fight for him. As believers in Jesus Christ, that is the kind of fellowship we all want to belong to. We can point back to our Creator to understand authentic community and why we so desperately need it. God has never worked or dwelt in isolation. He has always been surrounded by the Trinity. There is true communion there between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Likewise, when Christ came to earth, he didn’t go solo. He surrounded himself with twelve men, not perfect people by any means, but men who would be there to share the vision and the journey. An even closer authentic community for Jesus was the fellowship of three of those twelve disciples: James, Peter, and John, who witnessed the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17). So we must follow the example of Jesus, recognizing the fact that our faith journey cannot be walked alone.

The problem is that we so often come and go from our spiritual communities without offering our hearts. We stand back-- watching, observing-- but rarely engaging. We feel much safer sneaking in and out of church than taking the time to cultivate any kind of real relationships. We only discuss surface issues at small group for fear of sharing our real hearts. After all, many of us have been hurt by other believers. Why should we risk that pain again? In Christ, with all humility and grace, we need to find the courage to be broken before others and vulnerable. By broken, I am referring to the quality of being strong enough in Christ and who he says we are to be willing to let others in, no matter what they say or how they treat us.

Being a part of a rich, authentic community also takes a great deal of time. We can’t learn to trust or understand each other until we have really spent time together. Look for ways to meet and touch base with other believers with whom you sense a connection. Call them. Have them in your home. Keep in touch through email. Acts 13: 42-47 tells us that the fellowship of believers met every day. Although that may not be possible in today’s culture, we should be challenged to stay in touch with other believers more than once a week.

Jesus says in Matthew 9:12, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” An authentic spiritual community is where sick people have found the cure and now long to spread the news that broken people can live. It’s a place where our hearts are fought for through the weapon of prayer, and spiritual victories are won.

1 comment:

fetzer said...

Good post, I appreciate your perspective.