Did you ever notice how patient you are—as long as no one is getting on your nerves?
Or how loving you are—as long as you’re surrounded by people who are easy to love?
Or how humble you are—as long as you’re respected and admired by others?
Every one of us is a saint in isolation! It’s in community with others that our real weaknesses, flaws, and sins are exposed.
But that’s why community is essential—not optional—for transformation. We can’t become the people God wants us to become outside of it.
You see, redemption is not the end of the story. God is preparing us for “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). His goal is a renewed creation, where redeemed humans dwell in perfect harmony with each other and with their Creator.
God is out to prepare his people for this glorious future by transforming them now, a process the Bible calls sanctification. The agent of sanctification is the Holy Spirit. The tool of sanctification is the truth of the gospel. And the context of sanctification is community.
Consider some of the “one another” statements in the Bible: “Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). “Comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11). “Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” (Ephesians 4:32).
Isn’t it obvious that none of us can do these things perfectly?
These commands aren’t given just so that we’ll know what we should do; they’re also given so that we can try, fail, and grow in our experience of God’s grace.
Trying to fulfill these “one another” commands helps to reveal our sin, drives us to Jesus in repentance and faith, and causes us to depend on the Holy Spirit for transformation.
Community is the laboratory in which we learn to rely on God’s grace and experience the gospel’s transforming power.
Community is also the primary context for mission, our outward focus as believers.
God wants to use our communities, messy and broken as they are, to draw others into his story and introduce them to Jesus, the Redeemer! It’s not just about us becoming more like Jesus; it’s about people who don’t know Jesus coming to know him as Savior and Lord.
Sometimes we treat community like the safety net under a tightrope walker: it’s a good thing to have in case something bad happens. But the Bible talks about community as if it’s the tightrope itself: you can’t move forward without it.
We are created for community. We are redeemed for community. And we are transformed in community.
This article is an excerpt from The Gospel-Centered Community, by Bob Thune and Will Walker, a small group study from Serge.