Most people instinctively crave meaningful relationships. For some, this inner longing distorts reality, and subsequent wrong choices result in a lifetime of grief. For the authentic disciple of Jesus, God uses this divinely-placed, innate desire for relationship to His glory. Christians who live in close proximity to each other and frequently engage in worship and ministry leave a tremendous testimony. They harmoniously display to observers that they truly are a city set on a hill. Jesus said, in His kingdom mandate, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14).
What does it take to experience real Christian community? First, it takes real Christianity, meaning the individuals in the community have to be born again. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God . . . Ye must be born again” (John 3:3-7). A born-again person has his sins forgiven and lives in sweet fellowship with Jesus. Because of the Holy Spirit living within his heart, an individual takes on a new and different identity. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
This newness of life results in the born-again person embracing a walk of holiness that clearly demonstrates Jesus to those around him. When he is freed from sin, he begins to serve God and others take notice. His desires change, his devotion is redirected, and his destiny is altered. This three-fold change is best described in Romans 6:22: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” New desires (“free from sin”), new devotion (“servants to God”), and new destiny (“everlasting life”). All of these together describe the holy walk of a disciple of Jesus.
A new birth, a holy walk, and then . . . a community of disciples living in harmony. When Jesus changes lost souls who then begin to live in brotherhood, two godly attributes quickly emerge. These are love and truth. The Bible says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22). Real Christian community is an impossibility unless both love and truth harmoniously unite. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another . . . By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). A godly love is an active love anchored solidly upon truth. The Bible says, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).
Godly love is not tolerant, but it exercises patience with the faults of others. Godly truth is not negotiable, but it speaks with gentleness, fervency, and purity to the errant. Real Christian community is achieved when both love and truth are embraced. In such an environment, disciples of Jesus will flourish and grow. This is the present expression of the kingdom of heaven, and it’s truly a beautiful experience!