Elder's Note: Community Atmosphere

The topic is community in the church. Community is the true unity of brothers and sisters produced by sincere love expressed in the many “one another” passages in the Bible. This sounds like a piece of heaven here and now. But achieving it is messy at best. I’m going to divide this writing into two parts. 

At any one time in the church there are givers of encouragement, love, counsel, etc., and receivers. I'm going to focus on receivers first. We normally focus on giving encouragement and loving others. The Bible has a lot to say about it, especially that we should do it. But what about receiving with grace and desire to receive?  All too often Christian brothers and sisters don't want to accept things that make them uncomfortable or challenge them. Or they will listen to just so much and then just cut the giver off as much as they can from their lives. The words seem to be too much to take, too intrusive, too personal. Now understand, the way things are said can be a problem for the giver. Wisdom is needed. Sensitivity and open communication are necessary. But as receivers, let's ask ourselves why we are so quick to react the way we do. Let's learn to ask the Lord for grace to hear well, to think the best of the giver and to examine carefully what they are trying to say, even if they say it clumsily. Self-examination, not throwing our hands up, is a better option. We can certainly disagree. But we shouldn't put up the firewalls. This is also love. One if the dangers we all face as believers is our tendency to want to solve our own problems, just me, my Bible and God. Of course the Bible is essential. And going to the Lord is indispensable. But how do we know we are right in our understanding?And how do we know we aren’t deceiving ourselves sometimes? We need to let others into our lives and in the church context, to give wisdom and caution in love. (See Proverbs 2: 1-7). Let’s be the body of Christ. Let's learn to be gracious receivers of sincerely offered grace, as well as good givers.

I talked about receiving encouragement, counsel, admonition, Christian concern, etc.  We learn to “receive well.”  I’m talking about now about “giving well” in the church. The Bible is clear here. Each of us in the church is to encourage, to admonish, to confront sin, and to actually and really love one another in the church. All this must have the intention of spurring each other on to love and good works, for spiritual growth, God’s glory and the good of others.  When do we do this?  As long as “it is called today.”  All the time, in all sorts of situations and (today), even leveraging technology properly, even through other means than face-to-face interaction. We do this sincerely, in love, with wisdom, boldly in some cases, always ready to give grace.  But since we are all members “one of another” and since our goal is unity in maturity, we all should love each other enough to take the risk of reaching out to our brothers and sisters in Christ.  If we don’t love each other we don’t love Christ. And if we don’t love in every way necessary in a particular situation we aren’t loving. If it’s words someone needs, give them, if it’s material help, give it. If others don’t receive well, don’t give up—pray!  God might well soften their hearts.