by Anne Kemp
“Where there are no oxen in the stalls, the stalls are clean, but there is much power in the oxen.” (Proverbs 14:4).
The Trinity itself is all about relationships. The Godhead – three in one. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They are all in community with one another. They are each unique but they’re one and the same. Is that our model for community? Does that demonstrate the importance of relationships? I would say it does.
What happens when we are alone? I know that for me, when I isolate myself and get too much into my own thoughts, I can slip down a dark hole. The enemy takes my thoughts and begins to subtly curve them into unhealthy and unbiblical ideas. From that initial “curving” they become twisted and before I know it….I am not just twisted in my thinking, but I am knotted up to the point of hopelessness. I can convince myself that there is no hope or that the situation will not change.
It is in those moments when my thoughts have so overtaken me that I forget what the Word implanted in my soul. I forget all the Bible verses I have memorized. I cannot see the love of God which is still there before me. I become blind and deaf to what I know to be true. It can become a dark place where I am my own worst enemy and I need people to point me back to the truth.
I am blessed to have people in my life who speak truth over me on those dark days. They love me enough to say the hard things and they love me enough to cry with me, too. There are days I need the Word lived out in front of me through others. By God’s graciousness, I have learned what true biblical community looks like as it has been lived out in my life.
What does it look like to be in community with each other? It’s like the Good Samaritan who went out of his way to assist someone in need; It’s like Jesus celebrating and rejoicing at a friend’s wedding; It’s like Jesus knowing the woman at the well and not condemning or judging her but letting her know that she was KNOWN by Him and still loved; It’s like the paralytic whose friends loved him enough to cut open someone’s roof and lower him down so he could be healed by Jesus; It’s like Jesus weeping over the death of a friend; It’s like Jesus who prayed for healing to come to a man’s daughter; It’s like Jesus eating with the tax collector – the unlovely of His day. True Biblical Community is like Jesus.
It’s weeping with those who weep, it’s comforting one another, it’s bearing one another’s burdens, it’s rejoicing with each other. (Romans 12:15, Matthew 5:4, Galatians 6:2).
How can I say I am willing to die for Jesus but won't drive out of my way to pick up dinner or stay up a little later than is comfortable with a hurting friend or go to someone's home when no one expects it? Whether it’s your closest friend or it's the person that is harder for you to love, we aren’t to leave them bleeding by the side of the road. They are often the most wounded.
Recently, I had ordered my day so I could leave my office at a certain time to go to an exercise class. I was about to hit send when three documents showed up on my desk that changed the entire package. It meant I had to redo everything but most of all it meant I couldn’t go to my class. I wish I could tell you I handled it graciously. I did not. I was fuming. MY plan had been altered. I wasn’t thinking about the sovereignty of God or anything except how inconvenienced and annoyed I was. BUT then, as usual, God showed me why I needed to be here and why HIS agenda was more important than mine.
I got a phone call – I needed to write a check for one of my clients for someone who was in desperate need. That person needed to pick up that check in the next 30 minutes. If I had gone on my way, I would’ve missed it and that person would not have received the blessing God had for him.
Why can’t I trust that HE has all things under control? I often get my “to do” list going and woe to the person who gets between me and my To Do list!
Then, my Father gently reminded me that His ways are not my ways (Oh…yes, Lord, I do remember that) and His ways are higher (there’s my next level of conviction) and His plans are good (now the tears are streaming). He planned for me to be here to help someone in need. Oh, that I would get out of my own way and let Him order my day. He needed me to help someone whose name I didn’t know but who was part of the community of believers.
Loving people is not easy sometimes – it’s often not neat or convenient. Sometimes letting people love you is not easy either – it can be scary. Sometimes submitting to God’s plan for my day (rather than my own) means He often reorders it so He can love people well through me.
We are biblically called to comfort each other, mourn with each other, to grieve and also rejoice with one another – that takes time. You will have to step outside of yourself – not out of duty but out of love. You will help a friend move when it isn’t convenient. You will babysit crying children when you are already tired. You will get up in the middle of the night when a car has broken down. You will make a meal at the most inconvenient time, you will sit in a hospital with a sick or dying friend. You will take time to listen when you are already in a hurry. We will do that because that is what love does.
If you are a part of a real community, you will get your hands dirty. It is inevitable. Are you willing to get messy? I hope so – because I (or someone else very close by) will need you to be “Jesus with skin on” when life is full of messy stuff.
When the stalls are empty the barn is clean, but… when the stalls are full the barn is messy. There is great power in our messiness. Just like the oxen who are very powerful when they are yoked together, there is power in our community to bring Glory to God and further His Kingdom when we are yoked together.