…This is harder for us than it was for our ancestors, because we are conditioned to be deeply afraid of covenantal relationships. And yet the Bible tells us we were built for covenantal relationships. We want and need to have other persons unconditionally, unselfishly committed to us, and we to them. Christian theology tells us we were made in the image of God, and that God is a Trinity. Jesus said he never did anything, said anything, or accomplished anything without his Father. The persons of the Trinity are absolutely one—each person does everything with the others. We were meant to live like that. Sin, of course, makes all human community difficult and at times painful. But it is suicidal to avoid all food just because sometimes some of it can be ‘bad’ and make you sick.
I am saying that community is no longer natural or easy under our present cultural conditions. It will require an intentionality greater than that required by our ancestors, and uncomfortable to most of us. But building Christian community is not simply a duty. It should not be a distasteful act of the will. Community grows naturally out of shared experience, and the more intense the experience, the more intense the community…
When Christians experience Christ’s radical grace through repentance and faith, it becomes the most intense, foundational event of our lives. When we meet someone from a sharply different culture, race, or social class but who has experienced the grace of Jesus Christ through the gospel, we don’t see the differences first, because we are looking at someone who has been through the same life and death situation as we have, since in Christ we have spiritually died and been raised to new life. (Eph 2:1-6; Rom 6:4-6.) And because of this common experience of grace—now a deeper identity marker than our family, race, or culture—when we come together, we find we ‘fit’! ‘As you come to him, the living Stone —rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house’ (1 Peter 2:4-5.) Like stones that already have been perfectly shaped by the mason, the builder simply lays each next to the other and they interlock into a solid and beautiful temple. When we speak to others who know God’s grace, we see that their identity is now rooted more in who they are in Christ than in their family or class. As a result we sense a bond that overcomes those things that, outside of Christ, created insurmountable barriers to our relationships. Jesus has knocked them down.