“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.”
Truth is the what of the Christian life.
Love is the why and how.
The Christian community is much more than a group of people on Sunday morning; it is the gathered, worshiping people of God who have responded to the call of Jesus. It is a community of people where people are equipped, and empowered to “walk in a way that is worthy of the calling.”
It is a supernatural fellowship where the truth is spoken in love, and where the followers of Jesus “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
It is a community where masks aren’t needed and where real friends help each other respond Christianly to the situations of life and work.
Many want community on their own terms, that is, when it’s convenient and demands little from them. Real community, however, requires that we fully engage with each other with regard to the things of life and work, and it demands that we do so sacrificially.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13.34-35)
We live and work before a watching world, and when the world sees the community of people who claim Christ, does it see truth in practice? Does it see observable love? Does it see orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community? Or does the watching world see a thinly spiritualized version of itself?
Francis Schaeffer called Christians loving one another the final apologetic. Our love credentializes us to a watching world. Our failure to love destroys our credibility.
“Without true Christians loving one another,” Schaeffer wrote, “the world cannot be expected to listen, even when we give proper answers. Let us be careful, indeed, to spend a lifetime studying to give honest answers. But after we have done our best to communicate to a lost world, still we must never forget that the final apologetic which Jesus gives is the observable love of true Christians for true Christians.”
The church is not a place, it is a people. The church is not a where, it is a who. We who claim Christ are redeemed and called to be his people. We are the church. We are his body, his special people in the world. When we say we “go to church” on Sunday, we are actually saying something that is not accurate.
We may gather together in a building on Sundays to worship and learn, but the building isn’t the church. We are the church. When the worship service is over and Christians leave the building, what is left is just a physical structure. Following the Sunday service, the church leaves the building and is once again scattered throughout the culture as agents of the Kingdom.
When Monday morning arrives, the church goes to work in the marketplace, where we are called to represent the truth and love of God in the way we do our jobs and interact with colleagues, customers, and clients.
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5.16)
This has been God’s plan from the beginning. May we be faithful to that plan in our time and place in history.