“We believe in the holy, universal Church, the communion of saints.” ~Apostles’ Creed
The Scriptures make it very clear that if we are one with Christ we are also one with each other. Communion. Fellowship. Sharing. God through Christ restores us into a righteous relationship with him and then, out of that, into a deep and rich life together with one another.
“In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” ~Romans 12:5
God brings us together in his Church and he puts us with people who bug us. He puts us in close proximity to people who irritate us. He puts us with sinful people who bother us and, at the same time, my sinfulness is bothering all those people. But it’s through these close relationships with people who are different from us that we’ll be sanctified. We’ll be made holy.
There are at least 59 times the New Testament uses the phrase “one another” or “each other” in describing how we’re supposed to live. In the Church. Plural. Us.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Live in harmony with one another. Accept one another as Christ accepted you. Instruct one another. When you come together to eat, wait for each other. Have equal concern for each other. Serve one another in love. Greet one another with a holy kiss (3x). Carry each other’s burdens. Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Be kind and compassionate to one another. Forgive each other. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. In humility, consider others better than yourselves. Bear with each other. Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Teach one another. Admonish one another. Make you love increase and overflow for each other. Love each other (13x). Encourage each other (2x). Build each other up. Encourage one another (2x). Spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Confess your sins to each other. Pray for each other. Love one another deeply, from the heart. Live in harmony with one another. Offer hospitality to one another….
There are several more, but you get the idea. You can’t work all of that out just by showing up at the church building for an hour and a half on Sunday mornings. If your experience with God’s Church is nothing more than listening to a sermon and getting a crumb and a sip and see-you-next-Sunday, that is not the fullness of what God wants for you in Christ.
We need each other. We need that deep communion.
You need me. Whether you want to admit it or not, you need me. You need me to remind you of how much you are loved by our God. You need me to challenge you and stretch you. And I need you. I desperately need you to encourage me. I need you to keep me straight.
To be saved is not just to go to heaven when I die. Being saved means being in a new relationship with God and with fellow Christians in the community of God’s people right here and now. How can I know that the love and forgiveness of God in Christ are real if I don’t experience them in communion with God’s people? How can I be a Christian if I don’t participate in the life and work of the community gathered by God and empowered by his Spirit to share his love with others?
Whoever tries to do without Church tries to do without Christ. Whoever is too good or too “spiritual” for the Church — with all its faults and weaknesses — is too good or too “spiritual” for Jesus himself and the Father who sent him and the Holy Spirit who continues his salvation work.
The Church in all of its eternal glory, in all of its beauty and truth and power, is right in front of us. It’s right here, all around us. But we miss it. We miss it because we’re only looking at the surface and the immediate. We look at the Church like people started it and people are running it. We look at the Church and we evaluate it as if it were my church or even our church. We make judgments based on the narrowest and most self-centered of criteria.
You know, this is God’s Church. He started it and he’s running it. And he puts us all together just like he planned. God did this. He has arranged us, every one of us, just as he wanted us to be.
And these people… some I like more than others. Some of them I wouldn’t choose to be on a 5th grade kickball team. But if I invest my life together with these people, then by the grace of God he will transform us more and more into what we really are: the holy, universal Church, the communion of saints.