Yes, community is messy and complicated. Sometimes it seems hopeless, especially for those on the margins. Christ was one of those on the margin, knowing rejection. We see him ministering to the uninvited throughout the Gospels, so we know they are on his heart. We may struggle with wanting to be reshaped since it is easier to just stick to the relationships that come naturally to us. But if people on the fringes are on the Lord’s heart, they need to be on ours. We are meant to be built together into a spiritual house for the benefit of one another and for the glory of the Lord.
When it comes to community in the church, many people feel like onlookers. For many, deep fellowship seems far off. Some feel excluded because they “do not fit in,” and others are unsure how to engage.
In the church of Jesus, this should not be. All believers should feel welcome and invited to be an active part of its fellowship. But in truth, we tend to herd together in groups based on similarities like being married or single, our children’s ages, our life stages, political preferences, or professional positions. We feel more comfortable around people like us. (What does your small group look like?)
God wants us to fight against this tendency and build a community that embraces people who are different from us, including people on the margins. The apostle Peter tells us:
As you come to him [Christ], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4–5).
Believers are like living stones, and God is shaping and fitting us together into a place where he dwells. But forming this type of community does not come naturally to us. It is a blessing, then, that God is shaping each one of us so that we are more like Christ, the living stone. He molds and forms us so that we fit together. I need to be willing to be reshaped so that someone quite different from me might find a place of belonging next to me. God wants us to look more like who he created us to be for the benefit of one another.
I might have to grow in patience as I listen to others who take longer to formulate their thoughts.