Back in college, I used to really be into weightlifting. I know that’s hard to believe, but I’ve got pictures to prove it! I only weighed about 165 lbs, but when I started training my goal was to lift 225 12x. I don’t know why I picked the number 12. Was it because of the 12 disciples? I don’t know. But that was my goal. However, for the longest time I couldn’t lift more than 205 lbs. For months I was stuck at that weight and just couldn’t lift more. The only way I was able to eventually break past that barrier and get to my goal was by focusing on building my core muscles and not only my chest. Focusing on my chest could only get me so far. I needed to focus on the surrounding muscles in order to finally experience the gains I wanted.
In a similar way, we cannot fully grow in our relationship with Jesus if we only focus on our relationship with Jesus. Jesus said that in order to grow in our relationship with him we need to also focus on growing in our relationships with others.
if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1Jo 1:7 ESV)
Fellowship is more than a polite wave and quick hello after a Sunday service. It’s Koinonia, which is a rich word in Greek that means “sharing life together.” John’s point is that part of walking in the light with God comes through walking through life other Christians. This makes sense if we think about how God described His church. He says that we are meant to be a family (Galatians 6:10, 1 Timothy 3:4,5,15). In contrast to our culture which is so focused on the nuclear family, the New Testament talks about relationships with other Christians 5x more than our nuclear families. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention to building relationships with our parents or siblings. But it does mean that God really cares about the relationships we have within our local churches.
Building relationships has certainly been made more challenging due to our current pandemic. However, if we have a Biblical conviction about the necessity of community, then we need to find ways to work through those challenges. We cannot allow fear of a physical threat to keep us from the greater spiritual need for community. Here are a few practical suggestions to consider.
- Have a time on Zoom with another person/couple/family before, or after, our Sunday Service.
- Follow our Facebook page and comment on posts and other people’s comments to enjoy a digital community.
- Regularly participate in one of our small groups and/or Bible studies.
- Pick one person/couple/family and make a commitment together to call each other on a weekly basis.
- Take advantage of nice days and meetup with others in a park or go for a walk.
- Buy a firepit and have people over, even during cold weather.
Obviously with the vaccines coming out and more and more people also getting immunity just from having the virus, our opportunities to get together in normal ways will continue to increase. However, we need to be aware that bad habits might have formed over these past 8 months. Maybe you are a little too comfortable “going to church” virtually and only connecting with people digitally. Virtual connection has been a helpful tool, but it just cannot replace in person experience. So we should all feel an eagerness to get back to being in person with people as soon as possible. If we don’t feel that eagerness, then we probably have some soul searching to do.
Growing in our relationships with other Christians is not only vital to our relationships with other Christians, but it is also key to being faithful to fulfill the mission Jesus has given us. Our Lord said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Joh 13:35 ESV). Do you see what he is saying will happen as we learn to love one another better? Other people (meaning non- Christians) will see that love and it will be a testimony to them of our faith. I’ll never forget the time I brought one of my co-workers to church and he was like, “Wow, there are a bunch of other Jeff’s in the world. I just thought you were a uniquely nice guy. Maybe there is something to this Christian thing.” Our ability to witness is limited if we are doing it by ourselves, because we can be written off as oddities. But as people see us interacting with other Christians as brothers and sisters, they will be seeing our faith in action.
- Do you regularly think about, and pray about, who you can invite to our Sunday Service?
- When getting together with a Christian friend, is there a non-Christian friend you can invite to join or vice versa?
Friends, there is nothing better than enjoying a thriving and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. He said that He is life and so our best life comes when we are abiding in Him. This happens through doing what He prescribed and pursuing Bible Intake, Communing with God in Prayer, Giving Generously, and Building Relationships. And so, for all of us, may these be New Year’s Resolutions Worth Making.
Grace and peace,