A loyal nation
We probably looked quite odd to anyone visiting from another planet.
The waitress had completely stopped serving and was standing staring at the TV. My friend and I stood in the middle pathway of the pizza place with our attention on the screen. Other patrons were at their table, conversation dormant, eyes focused on the television.
Swimming was on.
Clarification: Olympic swimming was on.
We eyed the TV in pregnant silence to see which nation would take the gold. When the American won, we all cheered and the waitress looked up at us and smiled and we smiled back. I don’t know her; she didn’t know us. But we had a common bond.
See, when you’re in middle America and the Olympic games are playing, you almost never have to ask “who are you cheering for again?” Because that’s silly. When you’re up against the world, cheer on America. It’s our nation. It’s our people. It’s our community.
A toil nation
Recently, I’ve been pondering the word “community.”
If you live in the US, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “The Christian life was meant to be lived in community.”
What I hear is, “Hold onto your day planners, Introverts. It’s about to get wild.”
I saw what “Community” meant while watching a video of persecuted, exiled, and downtrodden believers praising God together.
The figurative light bulb above my head began to flicker.
Let’s say you have few rights and almost no possessions. If every day brings with it the possibility of imprisonment and beatings, and your family has disowned you because of your faith, do you really need an encouragement to “live in Community.” Wouldn’t your Christian brothers and sisters become even more dear to you than life itself? After all, when you’re up against the world…
Are we so busy with our stuff and our time that we have to treat “Community” as just another calendar notification?
A royal nation
Obviously, coming together as a church is important as evidenced by the popular verse in Hebrews.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23-25, NKJV)
That chapter of Hebrews begins with the insufficiency of animal sacrifices to take away sins, however, Christ’s sacrifice takes away our sins, remitting them completely. Because of that, we are now priests and can enter into the Holiest of Holies by Christ’s blood.
Community is defined as “a group of people with a common interest or a common religion.” Except that we have more than just a common interest and religion.
The Church is not just a grouping of people who like the same sports team, or enjoy the same foods, or live in the same neighborhood – a chance gathering of bodies inhabiting the same space. We are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” (I Peter 2:9, NKJV)
I’m not against intentional church gatherings and social events. But I say we leave “Community” behind and strive for something more. “Fellowship.”
To me, Community says, “We’re having a church event. Be there.”
Fellowship says, “I see that you’re in need. I’m here.”
One day, as Christianity loses favor in the United States, we may reach a time when we cannot hold social events and large gatherings. In that time, we may find ourselves like Christians in hostile nations — huddled in upper rooms, back rooms, and small spaces with only a Bible and a flashlight. But our fellowship will be no less powerful because in that day we can say:
“Two or three of us are gathered together. God’s here.”