Why do we need community?

Church family - a community - confirms that I'm really a Christian. I can't assert that I follow Christ if I reject to become devoted member of some specific group of His pupils. Jesus said: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Jn. 13:35).

When we, as church family, get together in love despite nationality and social group difference, our unity is a testimony for all surrounding world (see Gal. 3:28, Jn. 17:21). You can't be a Body of Christ by yourself. You need other Christians for this. We together are His Body, not separately (1 Cor. 12:27).

Church family leads us out of selfish estrangement. Community is a school where we learn to deal with other members of God's family. This is a kind of laboratory for practical courses on self-sacrificing, sympathetic love. When you are a member of a local community, you can learn to take care of other people and share their interests: "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together." (1 Cor. 12:26). Only due to regular contact with ordinary, not perfect believers we can learn real communication and try the truth of what it means to be interdependent and knit together (Еph. 4:16, Rom. 12:4-5, Col. 2:19, 1 Cor.12:25). True biblical communication means that we are in the same way devoted to each other as to Jesus Christ. God calls us to give everything for each other, including life. Many Christians, knowing by heart John 3:16: «God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life», somehow absolutely don't remember 1 John 3:16: «By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.» Concerning other believers God expects from us the same sacrificial love: being ready to love them in the same way as Jesus loves us.

Church family helps us grow our spiritual muscles. You will never achieve spiritual maturity if you will only go to common Masses, remaining an indifferent viewer. Only participation in Church life helps us grow spiritual muscles. The Holy Scriptures say: "The whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (Eph. 4:16). It's too little just to go to Sunday and holiday Masses. It's just a minimum which is needed so as not to die spiritually. But this is too little for spiritual growth.

In the New Testament, combinations of words «each other» or «one another» are used more than fifty times. We are told to love each other, pray for each other, cheer up one another, teach one another, greet each other, serve one another, train one another, welcome one another, respect each other, carry burdens of one another, forgive each other, give in to one another, be devoted to each other... This is what biblical meaning of a word ‘membership' is all about! These are our ‘family duties' and God expects us to perform them in a local communication of the faithful. Concerning whom do you perform them? Some people think that it's much easier to remain saint when no one around prevents you from behaving in a way you like. But this is a false and shaky sanctity. Isolation from others brings falsity and self-delusion. It's very easy to deceive yourself, considering yourself to be a spiritually mature person, when there is no one around who would bring our true nature to the surface by his words and actions. True maturity is revealed only in relationships.

In order to become more mature it's not enough just to go to church, take part in the Masses, even only to receive Holy Communion, and to read the Bible. We need other believers. We will grow and get stronger much more quickly if we will learn from each other and report to each other about our growth. When other Christians share what God teaches them, everyone may make use of it for his own spiritual growth.

The Body of Christ needs us. God has given each of us his own place, his unique role in His family. This role is called a ministry, and for us to be able to fulfil it, God specially gave us proper gifts: "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (1 Cor. 12:7).

Community is the place which God had prepared for us so that we could reveal, develop, and make use of our gifts. We may have a wider ministry, but it always is a supplement to what we do in the community. Jesus in the first place takes care of the order of His Church, and then of different aspects of our ministry. The Church is specifically embodied in specific diocese, and diocese is alive only when it is a community itself or when communities function in it. You don't have to wait until your diocese will get alive or look for other living diocese. You have to put your own effort so that your diocese would get alive.

We participate in Christ's ministry throughout the whole world. When Jesus had been walking on earth, God acted through His physical body. Today He acts through His spiritual body. Church is God's instrument here, on earth. We have to not only reveal God's love to the world by a help of love for one another. We have to carry this love to the whole world together. How wonderful privilege had God presented to us! Being members of the Body of Christ, we are His hands, legs, eyes, and heart. Through us He conducts His affairs in the world. And everyone of us has to contribute personally to His project. Paul tells us: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph. 2:10).

Church family will help us not to step aside from Christ. Everyone of us is prone to be tempted. At some concatenation of circumstances everyone of us is prone to some kind of sin (1 Cor. 10:12, Jer.17:9, 1Tim. 1:19). God knows it well and that is why He commended all of us to help each other not to get off the right way. Bible says:
"But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb. 3:13). «Mind your own business» - this is not a Christian saying. We are called to communication, to mutual participation and we can't remain indifferent to lives of each other. If you know that one of your friends is hesitating and is bound to get off the right way, go for him and bring him back to communication of the saints. James tells us: "My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins". (James 5:19-20).

Besides that, local community provides us with spiritual growth by the side of leaders and mentors.

Satan really likes believers-loners, who are cut off from life of the Body, estranged from God's family, who don't have any responsibility before a spiritual leader. Devil knows that they are weak and not able to defend themselves from his works.

©Milites Christi Imperatoris