By Trillia Newbell
Understanding all that Jesus has done motivates me to press in to love and serve the body. He was sinned against, so we will be as well.
The difference is, Jesus never sinned. We, however, will sin against others and need the grace that Jesus has provided.
I’ve been a member of only a few different local churches since I became a Christian. Those churches came with their unique joys and sorrows.
But I know I need the church, and the church needs me. We aren’t called to walk out our faith alone.
Paul gave us a picture of our mutual need for one another in 1 Corinthians 12:12‑26: The church is one body with many parts, each part having an important role to play.
If we are to run the race, we need not only legs and feet but also a heart and lungs and eyes and ears and a circulatory system and a digestive system.
We need every part to finish the race set before us.
But if we allow hurts and sin to divide the body, it simply won’t function as it should. Because of sin, the church will always be a slightly dysfunctional family, but we can continually grow in love for one another.
This kind of growth is possible only when we set our eyes on the cross of Christ and our resurrected King.
Jesus’ sacrifice enables us to love the broken church and to contribute to her, knowing that one day He will come back for His bride, and we will worship perfectly as one.
THE BEAUTY OF THE CHURCH
You and I need a vision for the importance and beauty of the church and the need for her to persevere through the tough times brought on by our sin.
As we get this vision for the beauty of the church, even in the midst of all its brokenness, it isn’t enough to simply agree that “church” is a biblical concept.
Church is a people we live with. Church is a family—the family of God (Ephesians 2:19‑22).
If you’re truly in community, sharing each other’s lives, being open about sin, meeting together, and encouraging one another, then there will be a time when you wrong one another.
We are not isolated individuals; we have a family history. Some people can trace their ancestors back for centuries. Similarly we’ve inherited the faith from centuries of faithful forefathers and foremothers who went before us.
And that communion of saints extends across space and time to enable us to run the race into the future. Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Mt 16:18).
His heart for His church reminds me that this family of God we are a part of is worth fighting for even when the strain of relationships and sorrows in the church seem too much to bear.
You’ve likely heard the saying, church is not a building. But living out this reality takes us far beyond slogans and platitudes. To say we are a family is also nothing new. For some, going to church is easy, but building relationships is hard.
But because we need each other and because sometimes life is confusing and includes insurmountable circumstances, it’s important to press into the life of the church beyond attending once a week.
Actually it’s essential to the faith God has called us to.
Just as we need a theological vision for the church, we need a similar vision for the outworking of life in the church.
We need something God’s Word addresses: discipleship.
Discipleship can take many forms. It can be as simple as inviting someone into your kitchen for fellowship to organizing a routine lunch. However it looks, it involves honesty, seeking advice, Scripture, and someone willing to do all of the above.
The body of Christ doesn’t exist for us to gather on Sundays and then move along with our lives. God’s Word paints a picture of believers being a part of each other’s lives (Acts 2:44‑47).
Seeking counsel and being discipled are two ways to invite others into your life. People won’t know the details of your life unless you’re willing to share them. A willingness to be discipled by another provides an opportunity for prayer and mutual encouragement.
We pursue one another “because we are members of His body” (Ephesians 5:30).
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9‑10).
He’s writing about the vanity of trying to work alone to outdo others.
Getting things done isn’t the only benefit of working together. Two are better than one as we live out our faith in Christ.
We truly need each other, though we often try to go it alone. We need reproof and instruction, though we seldom seek it.
This is why discipleship is so important. Our temptation may be to think we know what’s best for ourselves. As you’ve heard—and maybe said—before, “We know ourselves better than anyone.”
Scripture says that we may be more confused than we think. The heart is deceitful, so to trust yourself at all times is not the best route to take (Jeremiah 17:9).
Wise counsel from a friend, pastor, or someone in your community group could be just the thing God uses for your protection.
One proverb says that a wise man will hear and learn, and will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5).
So we can safely assume that an unwise man will not hear from others; he will shut them down and not listen. He will lack understanding and will not acquire wise counsel.
So we need to resist the temptation to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7), which isn’t easy! As we seek to gain understanding, we must first acknowledge that we don’t always know what’s best.
TRILLIA NEWBELL (@trillianewbell) is the director of community outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. She’s the author of God’s Very Good Idea, Fear and Faith, Enjoy and Sacred Endurance, from which this article is excerpted with permission. Copyright (c) 2019 by Trillia Newbell. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com