If Jesus is rightfully received for who He is, in His fullness, what we become as a church is purely on His grace. For the Christian, and for the Church, Jesus is what informs the fellowship we have with one another.
This is so, because by nature, community is Trinitarian. Before the world, the Godhead existed in community: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Who God is as 3 persons, and their relationship with one another, is part of what makes Him holy. God’s relational beauty is the bedrock for His holiness as relationship helps demonstrate his perfection. We see an example of this community in Genesis 1 when the writer says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..(Gen 1:26)” or in Proverbs when it says, “ I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man (Proverbs 8:30-31).” Creation came from the overflow of Trinatarian community. And because community is foundational in the nature of God, the Gospel is God’s word to us that He desires to be in eternal relationship with us.
The Desire of Jesus in Calling the Disciples
This past Sunday, we saw Jesus’ desire for community in the calling of the disciples. Look at this desire in Mark 3:13:
“And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with Him...” (Mark 3:13-14)
Here, Mark shows us that this type of family/New Community is what Jesus came and died to create, because Jesus desires true community with family.
Don’t get me wrong. The disciples had a particular office and calling. Jesus invites them in to be close with Him to teach them, disciple them, train them, equip them, empower them with the Spirit, love them, and show them the way of the Gospel for the renewal of the world. But, we can also view this scripture in its context and see that the calling of the disciples was also the inauguration of a new community and family that Jesus was establishing. And this fellowship does not stop with the disciples. He invites us in to experience deep relational intimacy with him as well.
Here are two relationships that Jesus completely changes as we believe in Him:
Jesus changes how we relate to God.
Matthew Henry says, “It is a great comfort to all true Christians, that they are dearer to Christ than mother, brother, or sister as such, merely as relations in the flesh would have been, even had they been holy. Blessed be God, this great and gracious privilege is ours even now; for though Christ's bodily presence cannot be enjoyed by us, his spiritual presence is not denied us.”
As we embrace Jesus as Lord, we can experience Him most intimately, as family. Does not matter who you are, where you have been, or what you have done. You can have fellowship with Jesus through faith.
And the beauty of the Gospel is that through Christ, God goes from the “One who dwells in unapproachable light” to our “Abba Father.” No other religion celebrates something this beautiful: That God is “Abba Father,” Dad.
Jesus changes how we relate to one another.
The other relationship that Jesus completely changes is relationship with one another.
If the Gospel of Jesus changes how we relate to God, then it changes how we relate to one another.
2 Corinthians gives us a glimpse into the major shift Jesus brings to our relationships:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer (2 Cor. 5:14-16).
The overarching emphasis of these verses in Corinthians is this: God shows us through Christ that relationship with one another is not about us. If Jesus is Lord and Savior, you can lay yourself down. You can give yourself freely to others, serving the purpose of glorifying Jesus. Where relationship outside of Christ is total self-serving, in Christ, we can experience true relational selflessness. This is so, because Jesus builds the new family off of the promises in the Gospel. We do not have to regard one another according to the flesh. We are a new community built off of Christ and His fullness. He defines the community. The old has passed away and the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2Cor. 5:17-18).
This new community is not built off of hobbies, interests, and the flesh. This new community is built off of the solid rock that is Christ. And if our relationships are built off of Christ, then the substance of our relationships is spiritual, not emotional.
Outside of Christ, our tendency is to pick friends and relationships based on our emotions, and how we feel. We pick friends that we agree with about certain issues, because we feel comfortable around them and because we are culturally similar to them. It is purely emotional. And when this is the sole basis of our relationships, it almost always results in “cliques” within the church: where others feel isolated, alone, alienated, and discouraged.
This type of relationship is not how Jesus defines His new community. In Christ, we can welcome ALL people into deep intimacy in the church. Ask yourself today: “Do I make others feel alienated and excluded from the Christian community?”Ask yourself: “How are you heaping extra requirements on relationships that are not necessary?”
Jesus welcomes everyone who simply has faith in Him. Every other requirement that we heap on, we need to kill!
Like in the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve were in deepest fellowship with one another through God’s ultimate reality, we now can build our lives with one another on the reality of God. Unity as a church becomes possible because God is here among us through Christ in the Holy Spirit. And when this reality becomes the basis of our fellowship, we will begin to flourish with one another in love. Moreover, because Jesus created a new way of family, it is possible through His Spirit to cultivate unity as a church in our diversity, cultural differences, theological differences, and different life stages.
Are we a church defined by our emotional needs and agendas? Or are we a family devoted and shaped by an identity that is rooted in Jesus? Are your relationships dictated by the reality of the Gospel in your life? When your life comes in line with the reality of Jesus, we will finally begin to see His name most exalted in our lives, in our families, and in our church.