Values – Community – 2/5/17 (text only)
Recorded: Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
Speaker: Andy Littleton
For me…a diverse community was a gift I got early, One of my best friends was a musical / philosophical / athlete. Another was and is a hip hop DJ and a prankster. The friends groups overlapped…and were very diverse.
Great things come from a diverse community, but often it breeds conflict. Every community is prone to conflict. Church is Community. Churches are in and of communities. So our Value #2 is Community…and how Christians can view community.
We see a surprising thing occurring in the Bible. Through the whole Bible…In Israel…the un-nation where outsiders were welcomed in as if God were saying “I can make anyone mine”. We especially see it in Jesus and his disciples, and in the early church. We see people gathering together…who shouldn’t be.
Matthew the tax collector. Simon the zealot, Luke the doctor, Peter and Andrew the working class…all in community. These are people for polar opposite ends of the political and social spectrum…the people who don’t “get along”.
A similar thing is happening here in this church…different views on the new political administration, different cultural practices, different views on caring for the environment. And that should happen through the work of the gospel. An ever increasing…and ever diversifying family…should be coming together because of the gospel. But it doesn’t always happen that way does it? So often…families, neighborhoods, and nations are torn apart.
Now…perhaps when you hear this VALUE of community and you wonder…What makes this distinctively Christian? Isn’t community a value almost everywhere…Outside of the rare hermit…guy living the woods?
It’s true…community is a stated value almost everywhere. It’s also broken everywhere…even among the “most committed”. Tim Chester (who wrote Everyday Church) though makes this argument…“An exclusive focus on community will kill community”…Because the demand of community is too high.
Look around…the express goal of so many is Unity, but we are so divided. Churches, the united states, the global community, families…all are so divided. It seems…The higher value we have on community…The more frustrated we are that it falls apart. So what hope do we have for community as Christians?
I want to impress…That Christians have the deepest resources for building deep and rich community.
We’ll walk through our passage to explore that. 1 Peter 1:22 – 2:5
We’ll look at the…High Demand of Christian Community
What Breaks IT
What Makes IT
The Practices the build IT…
High Demand of Christian Community
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth…for a sincere brotherly love…love one another earnestly from a pure heart…” – 1 Peter 1:22
Deep community comes from obedience to some form or standard by which love is defined. From an agreed upon truth of some kind, and from hearts dedicated to that truth. Not only that…deep community is other oriented. Peter speaks of “Sincere brotherly love” and “Love one another earnestly”. Community demands we live FOR others.
This isn’t just in the Bible…It’s the expectation of micro-communities – families. It’s what we want our neighborhoods to be like. It’s why the worst fall out is when a “friend” betrays us. We expect more from our friends.
Sociologist and former Dean of University of Texas Medical Branch John G. Bruhn in The Sociology of Community Connections said “Community” “…relationships are closer than casual relationships because the group shares some common goals, values, and, perhaps a way of life that reinforce each other, creates positive feelings, and results in a degree of mutual commitment and responsibility.”
We place a higher standard upon those in our communities. We expect them to live by our shared convictions and values. We expect them to live sacrificially…Not just FOR themselves. We expect dependable pure hearted love from community. And we’re very let down when we don’t get it. It’s an unrealistic expectation. But we long for it none-the-less. We should!
The trouble with our longing for community is when it centers primarily on the people in our community…be it the family, the neighbors, the church, the school…because people always break what community demands.
So our second consideration…What Breaks Community
“…love one another earnestly from a pure heart…since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls…” – 1 Peter 1:22b-24
In this Scripture there are 2 aspects of personhood described with a metaphor…the flesh…and the glory. “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.” This speaks to the shortfalls…the sin…of people.
Community demands commitment and constancy, but people have their limits. A person can only give so much.
Community demands a pure heart and sincere love, but people only have momentary / sporadic spurts of glory. You and I can love more deeply than any other creature. We have this deep capacity for love / goodness, which is our glory.But we aren’t always living at capacity…we fall a lot…as the flowers only fill the fields from time to time…regularly fall.
All flesh is like grass. The grass withers. My friend Sam was a rock for me. I could really count on him to be there. He would always tell me the truth.
But he died…young…in a car accident. And I was shocked… “What do I do without him?” People only have so much capacity…And only a finite amount of life to give. Our glory is like the flowers of the grasslands. It always falls. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed / fallen. I’ve betrayed friends. My issues have encumbered me. I have so many regrets… “I should have loved better”. Please don’t bank your hope on me…any of us.
What breaks community is the very thing that makes up community. The people. You. Me. Because we sin and are under the curse of death. We only have so much to give. We’re perishable and temporary. And we FALL. (over and over…until we fall into death)…and so we break community time and time again.
So what hope is there? What Makes Community
“The grass withers, and the flower falls…but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” – 1 Peter 1:25
And earlier Peter had said… “love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again…” 1 Peter 1:22b-23a
You see…what makes community…a deep community…is their shared hope and faith…that goes deeper than themselves. Faith in the one who is not like grass, and who’s glory does not fall, like the flowers. The Word…the Scriptures…are pointing us to God all the way through. So the Word MAKES community.
Even the Old Testament…where we see the first Fall, and immediately the first breaking of community. Ever since then it’s been a journey of reconciliation. Reconciliation initiated (over and over) by God. Cain and Abel…there’s a broken relationship with God that led to a breaking of brotherly love. The great city of Babel…focus on self (making a name for themselves)…led to a breaking of community and confusion.
But when God would do something like deliver the law the people would be drawn back together…and even more…when he would deliver them they were drawn together by his grace. When they trusted in him and resisted grumbling and worship of idols the community was built up.
And the Word culminates in the ultimate deliverance in the ultimate reconciliation in which Jesus comes…the Son of God…“to draw all people unto himself” (John 12:32)
God came to us…giving of himself with self-less love…walking among us…with a pure heart, obedient to the truth, loving us, as we long to be loved.
Of course we “received him not”…he exposed us in light of his glory our fallen glory was exposed. We put to death the Lord of Glory. We broke community with God. We murdered him as Cain killed Abel. We wanted a name for ourselves. We wiped his name from earth.
What does this mean in light of our Value of Community?
It means this that God himself suffered the breaking. He took the brunt of sin and selfishness. He endured the curse of death. He is the pinnacle of the story of Scripture. In him the community God seeks with his people is made possible in that Christ suffered what we deserve for falling short of the glory of God by breaking community…so we can be reconciled to God.
Those who have broken community can be forgiven and restored. In this we are “born again”. We can move forward with a new identity. Instead of living as those who are fall like the flowers (over/over)…instead of living in the shame of past failures. Instead of living in anger toward those who’ve hurt us. We can live in light of the GOSPEL. As forgiven. Safe in his care. Reconciled. Humbled. Hopeful…as givers (as we are receivers) of mercy and grace.
What Makes Community Possible…is the Word and the Gospel. It becomes the shared value. The common commitment.
Deitrich Bonhoeffer – Life Together (on Christian Community)
“We can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ…Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it.”
What makes community is not the people alone, but the Word and the Gospel hope by which we bear with one another.
The Practices that Build Community
Living out of a new GOSPEL identity…1 Peter 2:1-5
“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. As you come to him, 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.”
Here’s what the Christian community does…And the truths that make it possible. (How you live in light of tasting the Lord is Good)
1. Worship because we see God is good through Jesus.
In this last Scripture you see the people of God are a worshipping people. The new priesthood.
The center of the lives of priests is the worship of their God. They offer spiritual sacrifices…in Hebrews 13:15…the sacrifices we offer are our praise, which comes from thanksgiving. The Christian community has this as a common theme…They have tasted…and know…the Lord is Good. They worship him, which is why regular communal worship IS KEY.
2. Humility…because every one of us needs Jesus.
This passage describes the new Christian community…like a daycare…a bunch of infants…(humble view)…that need to grow up through basic truths as by drinking milk. This community was made up of business men…Former religious leaders…Devout women…elders of the community all of whom accepted they’d been living wrong. What bound them together was a communal admission of need… “We need Jesus”…Not only do we need to be forgiven. We need to be retrained to think by the gospel. Christian community is rooted in humility.
3. Repentance…because of Jesus’ kindness.
This Scripture describes the putting away of old ways…Malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, slander. These were the old methods that broke community. Malice…ill intent toward those who you despise. Deceit…if it was needed to get your way. Hypocrisy…acting one way…inauthenticity.
Envy…wanting what others had for yourself. Slander…wrecking others’ reputations. These and many others things cause our glory to fall. They harm others. They sever community. But because Jesus has been kind to us…because he hasn’t given us what we deserve for being this way…we can repent and turn from such ways of living. He was kind…not to say it was ok…but to change our hearts… (Romans 2:4)
4. Authenticity…because of Jesus’ righteousness.
One of the best ways to “put away” old ways is to confess them to one another. (James 5:16) Now…in community that can be a scary thing. When people find out your sins they are more prone to reject you, which is why you need to know you’re covered. That your righteousness is found in Christ. A community committed to imputed righteousness…that is…righteousness that comes from Christ and covers us will be an authentic community. And thus an increasingly Christ-like community.
5. Patience…because of Jesus’ long-suffering.
This Scripture uses the term “grow-up”. Infants don’t just morph into adults overnight, and neither do Christians become instantly mature. We need to think long-game with each other…considering that God has us each on a life-long journey…that will look like this (up and down). We can be patient with others because Christ is patient with us.
6. Forgiveness…because of the cross.
In being patient with others there is always going to have to be forgiveness. People, as they grow up into Christ, will inevitably fail and their glory will fall. Those who are most able to forgive are aware of how much the cross was for them. Mature people see their need of the cross more.
7. Encouragement…because Jesus has pursued us. (Heb. 3:13)
The gospel is incredible in that it does not teach that we cleaned ourselves up, and then God decided to love us. It’s the absolute opposite…Jesus chose to love us WHILE we were absolutely rebellious and lost in our sins.
Christian community does the same. Christian love is not conditional on being deserved. It is freely given so when someone is sinful and flawed. We enter in and encourage them. It’s so different!
8. Love…because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
The greatest element of Christian community, which makes all of the others possible…Is love. And we can only love undeserving (fallen) people when our tanks are filled with love from the unfailing God. And this is what builds community.
How did God win your heart? By proving you wrong? By expressing his disappointment? By getting angry with you? By giving you a list of ways to live?
As it sinks in more and more deeply, that Jesus wins your love, by sacrificially loving and serving you then you’ll learn to love others the same. Love begets love. We love because he first loved us. Our great reminder of the Gospel…and our basis for deep community is at the Lord’s Table.
Broken For YOU…(Your hope in him)
Poured out…forgiveness of Many (community bond)