There is something that is inside each of us that pulls away from feeling like we belong. Instead of identifying with a common thread in a group, we look for ways to distance ourselves from the group. Poor me, I’m the only one who doesn’t have a job, or I’m the only one with kids that act like this, I am the only one who doesn’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Right? Don’t you think that so many times we think our issues are so separate than other people problems?
It is satan’s great plan to distract us and separate us from each other and God. Satan gets us trying to answer questions no one is asking… and we lose focus and drive and motivation to keep moving forward in recovery. But lets be clear, in terms of heaven and hell, they are real places on opposite spectrums but satan and God are not equal, God still has victory over satan, so no matter what we go through, what conflict we need to work through or addiction we need to kick or pain we need healing from, God is still victorious and we can also be victorious when working in line with him!
When we invite the Holy Spirit, He goes to soul to soul to soul, we can’t do this life on our own, it is more than mere friendships, we are redeemed and redeeming, transformed and transforming loved and loving, Jesus asks that we do to others what you would have them do to you…so what does dealing with people really look like biblically? How are we to BE community and not just do community? How do we be recovered from addictions and compulsions and not just go to recovery meetings? How do we not feel so alone with our problems? You can tell me to love like Jesus loved, but without some tangible takeaways, I have no idea what that means, and then I start misinterpreting what I am supposed to do and I start picking and choosing what I want the bible to say to me instead of reading it for truth. I need tangible ideas to practice on.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT)
Dang, if I just stopped there I would be like, looks like I am so not getting into heaven! Isn’t it funny that when people see other people, especially christians doing life with impurity and outbursts of anger and wild parties and the like, there first accusation is hypocrite! You are a big fat hypocrite. We use that as an excuse to not attend church or believe of a better life.
What we have to keep in mind is that it isn’t hypocritical to sin. It isn’t hypocritical to continue to go to church in your sin, to go back to Jesus and go back to Jesus and go back to Jesus. What is hypocritical is to deny Jesus’ love and Grace to wash over you, to deny the Holy Spirit to work in your heart and your life and to be transformed. We can have a transformed life that leads to a transforming community. We can be a part of something. We don’t have to be alone.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT)
Ok, this is where I get tripped up…so I can identify with all the bad things that are going to keep me from the kingdom of heaven. I look at this list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control AND I FALL SHORT. EVERY. TIME.
Here are four things that make up a healthy community that can allow us to practice this list as best as we can.
So what does healthy community look like?
1. Progress not perfection. What is so great about recovery and recovery in community is that it is about progress not perfection. So we can look at this simple list in Galatians and say, ok…how can I today breathe positivity into my life and those around me using this as a sort of guideline? See, we do not need to be perfect before we join a group or volunteer somewhere…we are not going to be a kinder person if we never practice being kind. This means we need lots of practice…and Im not talking the be kind to your friends kinda practice…I mean God put those people hard to love in our lives for a reason! Those people that just get under your skin and annoy the heck outta you? Yeah, they are there for us to practice patience and peace and joy. Jesus said to turn the other cheek…yeah, I got your cheek right here, go ahead and kiss it, that is my first instinct!
The more we are in relation to Christ the more we can be containers for the Holy Spirit and the more that happens, the less work we actually have to do to be who God designed us to be.
Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he also shows compassion because of the greatness of his unfailing love. (Lamentations 3:30-32 NLT)
2. Give up your right to be right. In community we also have to give up the right to be right. When we can get to a place of humility where the team success is more important than my opinion, we are working in a healthy community. You see this in marriages all the time, it’s bad when two people who both need to have the last word get married, they never shut up and just talk in circles!
3. Don’t be afraid of conflict. Many times we don’t deal with conflict properly. We avoid or deny responsibility. This is why step 8 is so important. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. in order to be willing to make amends to people and say we are sorry, we need to recognize our part, our side of the street, the behavior that we contributed to, in an unhealthy way. And in order to recognize our part…and properly make amends and truly let it go, we need to forgive their part. Give grace when they don’t deserve it, forgiveness always.
4. Principles before personalities. Don’t be afraid of feeling betrayed. Don’t hedge your bets with people in community. Don’t only talk with or associate with people you get along with, you won’t get much practice if you only hang around friends.
There are so many promises in the bible that are for us! We are promised transformed lives and with that we can have a transforming community! And God promises to help us.
For I hold you by your right hand— I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. (Isaiah 41:13 NLT)
I pray that our community can grow, that we can see fruits in our own lives, in our behaviors, in our habits in everything we are Lord, let us see hope and not despair, let us feel faith and not doubt, let us feel love and not hatred for those we need to forgive and who need to forgive us. Like it says in scripture Christ has truly set us free. Thank you Jesus, please help us to stay free!