Community and friendship is never all happy times and coffee dates. It seems, especially in Christian friendships, that the challenge in friendship is even greater. As Christians we have chosen to live lives of grace, forgiveness, holiness (in pursuit of) and love (among many other unmentioned characteristics). Holding one another accountable to this lifestyle is of great importance. But accountability is painful. It requires honesty, encouragement, maturity, support and conflict. Paul shows us what this looks like in 2 Corinthians chapter 7. Here he describes necessary confrontation. We betray each other by not being honest and not accounting to each other our transgressions and offenses.
In our Facebook Women’s Ministries Book Club, we are reading Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. Just getting through chapter eight challenged us to consider what authentic community between women looked like. It was fun and exciting to see women share on our Facebook page their thoughts, feelings and opinions on what this authentic community might look like. What every reader had in common was that when women invest in each other’s lives, community is created. Doing life together. But like we mentioned previously, doing life together isn’t always pretty. In fact sometimes it really hurts. One time, a girlfriend of mine and I got in an argument. Feeling hurt, she yelled at me that “So-and-so would never hurt me like this!” Well, So-and-so lived in city-across-the-country, we lived in Chicago and saw each other every day. My reply was, “Of course she doesn’t! She doesn’t have the opportunity to hurt you like I do!” What is also true, So-and-so didn’t have the opportunity to love her like I did. The people you are closest to will love you deeply and hurt you deeply. That’s the great risk of friendship and community. No pain no gain. Its high risk, high reward.
In a scripture passage called: A Call to Persevere in Faith found in Hebrews chapter 10 there is a verse that is often used when people stop coming to church. Verse 25 says, “…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” In context, I believe this has more to do with not giving up on community and accountability. Yes it can make sense for coming to church on Sundays. But based on the circumstances of that time, persecution, suffering, prison – it is suggested that the assembling together was most likely private meetings, in homes, in their ‘community’ of people. For a couple reasons they may have felt it was, personally, getting too difficult to continue meeting together. The verses before encourages them to stay committed to their faith. The verses directly after touch on the behavior of continuing to sin even when knowing truth. Dealing with the persecution of people outside your community is rough, while handling your community calling you out on your behavior and sinful tendencies, and keeping you accountable to your commitments, not easy even for a mature Christian. Friendship and accountability is work!
All this to say; authentic community among believers requires hard conversations, honesty, courage, humility, grace, forgiveness, accountability and love. Don’t give up when it gets hard. Have those difficult conversations, confront someone in love when needed. Be willing to be confronted! Be encouraged and inspired by Paul’s ability to confront and love at once in 2 Corinthians 7 verses 3 and 4, “I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together. 4 Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.”