community, idols

Buzzword: Community

“You need to get in a community group…small group…Bible study, to do life together.” A true statement that is said at churches all across America every week. People seek community in many ways–facebook, twitter, knitting groups, neighborhood bars, Bible studies, families, fishing clubs, sororities/fraternities, Junior League, play groups, etc. We have all seen what we are like with people and have experienced the drought that comes without people. We’ve experienced true friendship that binds and the mere existence of someone just to “do something” with.
I think we all would agree that relationships are enriching and important. They can be so good for us. They take time, commitment, investment and perserverence. They teach us so much about ourselves and about God. But, what if we have made them the “it”, the ultimate?
Making something good ultimate is one definition of idolatry. When we begin to pursue something over our pursuit and worship of God, it is our idol. I think it would be wise to examine ourselves to see if community has become the encouraged and acceptable idol. Does our family take precedence over everything? (That is encouraged to be, but that can subtly become your idol.) Does your commitment to your spouse, kids, friends, small group drive you? (That sounds good, but look at the subtlety of the heart.)
The 1st commandment says –you shall not have any other gods before me. We are all worshipers of something. That is the way we were made. Some worship family, friends, career, nature, leisure, sex, their bodies, food, fun, their church, children, fertility, theology…I could go on. All of those things listed are not bad in and of themselves, but when made the ultimate, we have put them before God and they distract and destroy us.
I think if we really listen that we may have encouraged others to make community an ultimate. Community will not satisfy you. It is hard because people are involved. If you look to it as your object of worship, you will be disappointed and miss the ultimate One to worship. All of our idols leave us disappointed and wanting (and then we blame him for not filling us through them). God does not communicate the commandments to us as some master rules list to smite us. In all his wisdom, he knows that relationship with him is the ultimate fulfillment. He knows that we are satisfied only by loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. That is only accomplished through the grace and life of Jesus, for we cannot do that on our own.
Community can enhance our relationship with God–encouraging us, directing us, helping us grow, helping us learn to serve. It is the means by which we may learn more about God’s character, his love, his faithfulness. However, check yourself. Are you in community to serve and help others to grow ultimately to love God or yourself? Are you looking for what it can give you? Are you trusting God in the season you are in or are you questioning him because you are not fulfilled with friends and community? Do you run from people because they are hard and not meeting your needs or are you trusting God and his word and learning to love them as yourself?
When being “intentional” and having in-depth conversation and living together in community is talked about more than the hope of the gospel…more than adoring Christ, more than exalting and knowing him…we have made it an idol. When good becomes ultimate it is time to repent and fall on the grace of Christ.

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