Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Colossians 3:12-14
Some of the most life-giving experiences I’ve ever had have been in the context of a local church community. Some of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had have been in the same context. It’s a part of the ebb and flow of doing life, together.
I’ve long believed that one of the greatest marks of spiritual maturity for those who follow Jesus is the ability to live in tension. Choosing to live in redeemed community is a crash course in learning to live in tension. We are messy people, and sometimes we act out of our messy selves and hurt one another, although often, it’s unintentional.
Community is filled with tension because it requires vulnerability. Being transparent, honest, and open means that we open ourselves up to be hurt. And let’s face it – that doesn’t feel good.
But I’m convinced the only way to experience the truest highs in community is to open ourselves up to the risk of the lowest of lows. We have to be open to the full range of human experience. Otherwise, if we play it safe and hold back, we won’t ever experience the fruit that community is designed to produce in our lives.
Colossians 3:12-14 gives us the rules of engagement, if you will, for embracing community with others. Notice how it says we’ve been pardoned, and we’re set apart, and we should come from that place. So – we should be vulnerable in community, we should be open to the mess that it is, and assume the best about others, even when they accidentally hurt us – because this is God’s design. It comes with the territory – but it makes us who we are. This is where we produce fruit. We don’t run from community because it’s hard. We embrace community because it’s worth it.
Take a few moments and think about the communities you’re involved in. Maybe it’s your family, your church, your small group, your neighborhood, etc. Be honest about where it is messy. Ask Jesus to walk with you and to equip you to walk in the mess with others. You’ll be glad you did.
By Larry Boatright