The Joy of Community

As I looked around the table sipping my drink with friends I felt content with life as we laughed and smiled under the stars.  White lights lit up the evening.  Children played together in the yard.  Our bellies were full with a meal we had shared.  Sitting around that table was my community.

Years of friendship, trials, hurts, celebrations and life were sitting there staring me in the face that soothing summer evening.  Someone I had once hurt.  Someone who once lied to me.  Someone I cried with when I lost my baby.  Someone else who disappointed me because of a decision they had made.  And another person I had disappointed with a decision I had made.  So how could I be so filled with joy?  How could they ever be filled with joy sitting with me?

Have you ever read through Genesis 2:15-3:24?  Actually, have you read through the entire Bible?  It is like a soap opera, filled with drama, action, murder, life and love, with characters living life together.

It is quite common for people to leave their church community because of drama - someone said something hurtful, they didn’t like the new pastor’s sermons, they didn’t get their way to decide how the Advent decorations were going up, they disagreed on theology.  When so many people think of the church, they think of this kind of drama.  Hurt, pain, sins, judgment.

If you are one of these people, I’m sorry.  It pains me to know that this is the way the church has presented itself.  I am sorry for the times we have been judgmental.  I am sorry for the ways we have hurt you.  I am sorry we have made wrong choices.  I am sorry we have sinned against you.  I am sorry for the harsh word, the overbearing self-righteousness and the hypocrisy which has been shown in the name of God.

But back to that summer evening with a hodgepodge of people; my community joining together joyfully.  Community with these people came through our relationship with Christ.  Not one of us is perfect, as a matter of fact, we are far from it.  But this community of friends is leaning on Jesus to teach us to forgive one another as He has forgiven us.

Ruth Bell Graham once said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.”  But this isn’t just for marriage.  A happy community is made up of a union of people who are dedicated to forgiving one another.  It is a choice that is made to spur one another on to do what is right out of love.

I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
— Psalm 16 : 7-11

Just as with God, Adam and Eve in the garden, consequences for sin were to be dealt with, but everlasting joy was brought forth by the forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ.  We can have joy in our community with God again because of that forgiveness.  We can have joy in our community with others because of that very same forgiveness.

1 Peter 3 : 18
“For Christ died for our sins once for all, the just for the unjust,
in order that He might reconcile us to God.”

Is there a hurt in your past that is stealing the joy from your community with others or your community with God?  I want to encourage you to seek forgiveness to heal the wound that is there.  Do not let satan steal your joy out of bitterness and unforgiveness another day.  Have joy today knowing that you have been forgiven encouraging one another in love, joy, peace and forgiveness.