~Authentic Community~

If we have real fellowship…

The past few posts I have shared about community have been mainly positive, but today… in all honesty I want to share the other side of the coin.

Community is not always unconditional love, worshipful fellowship, prayer, laughing and celebration… no real community is REAL.

Real Community is authentic and because it involves humans–it also involves a whole lot of sin. Even as Christians we struggle with sin. Just because we have been forgiven doesn’t mean we aren’t tempted like any other brother. And because we are tempted and we are human, we don’t always pass those tests or temptations with flying colors either. Since we all sin… the more sinners in a community… it is fair to say there is more sin. More pain, more heart ache, more conflict and a greater need for grace and forgiveness.

In real community, you are close enough to hurt one another. Scary isn’t it?

But this is the true beauty of community. This is the aspect of community that is so sanctifying–>IF

IF we let real community happen in our lives and we experience hurt, confession, repentance, forgiveness and grace… it should bring us closer to our Savior Jesus. If we truly have humble hearts-acknowledging our real sin nature-our inability to do good on our own-THEN. Then we can view the what may look like hardships and pain in community as opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.

Community is Sanctifying, but only when we are truly authentic within it- and only when we are humbling looking at our’s with God’s eyes… not too haughty… not too lowly… but as we truly are… forgiven because we need forgiveness.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7, ESV, emphasis mine

One of my favorite books of all time “The Calvary Road” by Roy Hession so profoundly nails the inherent problem we have with our fellow-man.

“When man fell and chose to make himself, rather than God, the center of his life, the effect was not only to put man out of fellowship with God, but also out of fellowship with his fellow man.”

“Now the work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross was not only to bring men back into fellowship with God, but also with their fellow men. Indeed it cannot do one without the other. As the spokes get nearer the center of the wheel, they get nearer to one another. But if we have not been brought into vital relationship with our brother, it is a proof that to that extent we have not been brought into vital fellowship with God… Everything that comes as a barrier between us and another, be it ever so small, comes as a barrier between us and God.” Roy Hession, The Calvary Road, pg 33-36

He goes on to state {paraphrase} that anything that reproves us, shows us up as we really are–that is light. Light reveals, darkness hides. When one is in real community– it is hard to hide–it is hard to be in darkness.

So are you in real community, real fellowship?

Here is my thermometer: Is there sin, conflict, love, forgiveness, confession, repentance, honesty, true introspection, is there growth? If not, then the relationship is probably not authentic.

Now here is the reality of today’s culture: Most wear masks and cannot handle being authentic. They live in fear, and some of them don’t even know what it would look like to go deep, because they have avoided it for so long, protecting themselves from the darkness. They know their sin, but they cannot allow the light to expose it… so they wear masks. After years of layering on masks, and hiding from the truth, the conditional of their spiritual walk with the Lord, after years of not being honest with themselves about their own sin… they grow hardened towards true fellowship.  Not all are struggling like this, but many are.

So what should we do? Should we be patient, and wait for them to become comfortable with being real? Or should we love them but without compromising be authentic ourselves?

“Sin always involves us being unreal, pretending, duplicity, window dressing, excusing ourselves and blaming others–and we can do all that as much by our silence as by our saying or doing something.” Hession pg.37

Spurgeon puts it this way in one of his sermons: “the willingness to know and be known.”

So friends, let’s be willing. Open our hearts and choose to be in true, real, authentic community. Let’s not expect everyone we are in community with to be Jesus.  We are not Him. But let’s keep Him as our standard for what it means to be broken- and try to be broken and real with one another. It is then that we can have power over the darkness in our souls- in confession-in repentance- in grace- in love.

God Bless- Love you All

Angie Tolpin