“So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.”
Christianity is individual, but it is not individualistic. Through Christ, God first calls us into relationship with himself, and then calls us into relationship with other Christians. We are created for community.
In Romans 12, the apostle Paul describes the oneness and unity of body of Christ: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12.4-5)
Our most profound spiritual growth happens in deep fellowship with other believers. Francis Schaeffer spoke repeatedly about the need in the church for orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community. By that he meant that the watching world should see in Christians observable truth and observable love.
“Our churches must be real communities,” Schaeffer wrote. “With an orthodoxy of doctrine there must equally be an orthodoxy of community. Our Christian organizations must be communities in which others see what God has revealed in the teaching of His Word.”
This kind of distinctive fellowship—this kind of community—only happens when Christians fully engage with each other based on truth and love. Not the contentless and sentimental love of today’s culture, but love as defined and directed by God’s truth, as well as truth that is motivated and shaped by God’s love.
Schaeffer explains further: “We may preach truth. We may preach orthodoxy. We may even stand against the practice of untruth strongly. But if others cannot see something beautiful in our human relationships … then we are not living properly. Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.”
But as I wrote last week, genuine Christian community isn’t always easy, it takes faithful work and sometimes requires productive discomfort.
Schaeffer spoke to this, as well, with an equal emphasis on an uncompromising commitment to truth. “Truth always carries with it confrontation. Loving confrontation, to be sure, but confrontation nevertheless. If our reflex action is always accommodation regardless of the centrality of the truth involved, there is something wrong.”
This is the great challenge today for Christians: truth and love. One without the other will not work. Love without truth is weak and feeble. Truth without love is harsh and uncaring. Real Christianity fully embraces both.