Have you ever seen a group of people you wished you could join but you were a stranger, an outsider looking in?
I remember an American Christian Fiction Writers banquet held in Minneapolis (the one in Minnesota). A room divider separated our banquet from a wedding reception and dance. We had a great time on our side, but the other side of the curtain sounded like they had an even better time. Some writers and guests were tempted, after our party broke up, to join theirs.
I want you to consider a community centered in Christ as being like a huge celebration, a large banquet, if you will.
For one reason, Scripture uses banquets and weddings to symbolize our relationship to the King of kings and to one another. For a second reason, it helps me make the rest of my point.
Okay, so if this idea of Christian community suggests one big party, what are we inviting others to experience? Why would folks want to come inside and join us?
For the answer, I’d like us to think about what holds us together.
We all hurt.
As strange as it seems, our painful experiences actually draw us closer to one another. Just this week, I exchanged comments on Michael Hyatt’s blog with my friend Kelly. In the exchange, she wrote of growing up with an alcoholic mother. I responded with my own experience of growing up with a mother who battled alcoholism. In two short statements, we connected through our common painful experiences.
We have a common hope.
To be honest, I don’t want to tell a person bad news and I don’t want to hear bad news.
A few years ago, my hands broke out with a terrible rash. I put lotion on them and things only got worse. They itched, cracked, bled, and oozed (isn’t that a lovely picture?).
After a few weeks of misery, I made an appointment with a dermatologist. She told me I had eczema and the disease was incurable. For me, this wasn’t just an inconvenience or an irritation. The news crushed me.
Because my grandfather had eczema so bad he’d scratch until he opened up sores. His entire body from scalp to heel was tattooed with scrapes and scabs. He was bedridden, and I associated that fact with his skin condition.
When the dermatologist diagnosed eczema, she delivered awful news.
Then she added three simple words that tossed a buoy of hope to my sinking soul. “But it’s manageable.”
Incurable (bad news) but manageable (buffered by hope).
We know the bad news. “There is none righteous, no, not even one.” We know the just penalty for our unrighteous choices—eternal death, damned to hell.
But we also know the good news. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
We have a common hope in Him. That hope cements our hearts to God and one another.
We experience healing.
When we expose our wounded souls and discover hope in the midst of our pain, we move toward wholeness. We are forgiven and we forgive. Once broken, our hearts mend.
The journey from pain to hope to wholeness is, at times, difficult. But that ultimately is what we invite others to experience through a community centered in Jesus Christ.
I’m curious. As a believer in Christ, what do you think we’re inviting people to experience? Do you have your own bad news story lined with hope?
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