“So seriously, what’s going on in your life?”
We’ve been friends for ages. We see each other only a couple of times a year. Usually our conversations are more informational than deep. This time, for some reason, we threw that out and talked about what’s really going on in our lives.
My friend asked questions. I caught myself beginning to give him my automatic responses. I paused and reflected, and then told him the unvarnished truth. He did the same with me.
At the end of the conversation I thanked him. “This is one of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time,” I said. Even now, weeks later, I’m encouraged and challenged by our time together.
I often pursue God alone. We talk about quiet times, about Jesus being my personal Savior, inviting Jesus into my heart. Our language betrays us: we see the Christian walk as a solitary pursuit, as private as the most intimate parts of our lives.
That’s not the Bible’s picture. I’m often amazed at how much Scripture tilts in the opposite direction. We’re meant to pursue God in community. The commands of Scripture are not primarily written to individuals but to churches. We simply can’t live the Christian life alone.
For sure, we can do some things in private. I continue to read my Bible alone in the mornings, and I’ll continue to journal and pray by myself. But even an introvert like me needs community. We’re meant to pursue God alongside others, opening up our struggles and joys, inviting people into our messes, encouraging and rebuking each other, even rubbing each other the wrong way. We were never meant to purse God alone.
I once preached through Ephesians 6. “Put on the whole armor of God…” I slowly unpacked the passage, explaining the importance of each piece Paul describes.
“Do you know what’s wrong with most sermons I hear on the armour of God?” a friend asked. “I hear it applied to individuals, not churches. Whoever heard of a soldier getting suited up to go into battle alone?”
And yet it seems that most of us do. We need a better image, a more biblical one, of life together.
Part of our problem is that we try to do alone what we’re meant to do together. It may take time to make the switch, but I have a feeling that it begins with conversations like I had with my friend.
We try to do alone what we’re meant to do together.
Just a few days later, I had another conversation with a different friend. The first part of our conversation started as most do. But eventually we shifted and found our place, slowly opening up the truth about our lives to each other. As we did, the tone of the conversation shifted. I can’t explain what happened, but God seemed to be at work.
I’m still learning how to lean into conversations like this. But I’m learning this: the gospel creates a community, and that community lends itself to both joy and growth. We’re meant to grow together.