There is something that is inside each one of us that pulls away from belonging. Instead of identifying with a common thread in a group setting, whether it be at work, at school, at church or at family functions, we look for ways to distance ourselves from the group. We think ‘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.’ We are not focussed on things we have in common, things in life we can identify with and therefore we do not feel unified with the whole.
It is satan’s great plan to distract us and separate us from each other and God. When we are distracted, we try to answer questions no one is asking.. and we lose focus and drive and motivation to move forward in life and 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 into our hearts and everyday lives, He goes to soul to soul to soul, transforming our lives. We cant do community ourselves. It is more than mere friendship, 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 and not just go to recovery? How do we not feel so alone with our problems? How can we have a transformed life and contribute to a fruitful, transforming community?
Here are four key concepts that make for a healthy community.
1. Progress not perfection.
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)
Note how it is the Holy Spirit that produces this fruit in our lives. I think we get tripped up by not feeling good enough, we see this list and remember all the times we felt impatient. All the times we gave in and had no self-control, felt fear and not faithful, we focus on the have nots instead of practicing the haves in partnership with the Holy Spirit. 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 jerks in our lives for a reason!! The 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. 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 we want to be.
2. Give up your 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 toward a healthy community. I see this all the time in meetings. When two or more people who all need to have the last word try to accomplish something, they just talk in circles and don’t actually accomplish anything. How much wasted time has satan distracted us with petty judgments or arguments? Give up your right to be right.
3. Don’t be afraid of conflict.
Many times we don’t know how to deal with conflict properly, so we avoid or deny responsibility. This leads to gossip or unresolved resentments that get built up in a community. Ever hear of ‘Minnesota Nice’? Nice to the face but cold as ice? Yeah. It is real. And it is unhealthy. The bible is quite clear.
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17 NLT)
4. Principles before personalities.
Don’t be afraid of feeling betrayed. If we think in terms of principles before personalities, we gain tolerance, peace and understanding of people who are different than us. When we think of principles before personalities we tend to take less conflicts personally, we do not get offended so easily when we focus on principles before personalities. We are also less distracted by satan so we focus on the importance of building community, not building walls.
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)
What principles do you think make for a healthy community?