There has been a lot of conversation in the last couple of years about what it means to be the Church. In this time in history, when much of the world has been affected by a global pandemic, the church has to reflect on what it means to be the Church. The struggle has been around discerning what it means to be the body of Christ. Particularly in light of the rules imposed upon large groups of people by governments around the world.
In the midst of these new challenges, insights have been gained as a result of extended periods of separation and even isolation. In the opening chapters of the Bible God tells the first man it is not good for him to be alone. And an implication is that isolation is not good for anyone!
The immediate context of his declaration is Adam’s discovery that of all of God’s creatures man was without companionship. And so while there is much that can be said about the need for community and fellowship as individual members of society, there is also a lesson about what it means for us to be a community of faith.
In the New Testament, we find the admonition that we should not refrain from gathering together for worship and instruction. There is no prescription as to what that should look like. But there is a warning that we should not keep ourselves from coming together regularly. We should ask ourselves why is this oftentimes is something we have avoided.
The gathering of God’s people is not merely a social event. The community of God exists to foster the kind of growth which leads us to a deeper appreciation of God’s grace.Tweet
I think the challenge of understanding the gathered nature of the church hinges on our understanding of what it means to be people created in the image of God. For those of us who hold to a Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead, the notion of divine community makes sense. While we do not fully understand how God exists within the divine essence we can know that God exists in perfect community. The mystery of the Trinity is not something that can be explained. It is a truth of faith that is revealed and must be believed.
This reality of God’s own existence helps us to see that as image bearers we too will find our emotional and communal needs satisfied when we gather together with others who share the journey with us. The gathering of God’s people is not merely a social event. The community of God exists to foster the kind of growth which leads us to a deeper appreciation of God’s grace. Not only are there opportunities for instruction and correction but there are opportunities for sharing in one another’s lives. This sharing includes the celebration of the joys in the distribution of the burdens among those who are doing life together. This is a key element of the community of God.
One of the wonderful aspects of celebrating the season of Lent is this shared experience of reflecting and preparing for Easter morning. All over the world there are countless millions of Christians who in this season slow down enough to remember all God has been doing in their lives. By doing this we give testimony to the grace of God offered to everyone who finds themselves alone. Being grafted into the body of Christ gives us access to a fellowship that fosters our development as the children of God.
And so we gather together not merely to perform religious ceremonies or to receive doctrinal instruction but to enjoy the company of those with whom we share a common faith.