You would think I would have learned by now, but apparently I continue to be a little slow on the uptake. Or maybe it is because I want it to be different but reality says its really not. Here is my situation:
So often, I encounter someone, particularly in the church (but not always), who I will pursue and attempt to get to know them. As I do this, I will routinely invite them to join in on opportunities of fellowship such as a Men's Group, a Sunday School class, or maybe a worship service one Sunday. Most often I hear the same type of response, "Oh sure. That sounds great. I would really like to do that sometime."
On occasion, when the desire for growing in their faith is genuine, they will follow through and meet other people and begin to form meaningful relationships. However, more often than not, there is verbal ascent to the offer but no true evidence of a desire to experience fellowship with other believers in Jesus Christ. The excuses take a variety of forms
"We're so busy."
"Oh, was that last night?"
"We're not sure we fit in."
"We live so far away."
Up until now, my assumption was that they are just private people who prefer to fly solo. Or maybe they are a couple who has trouble making new friends and so they stay isolated. Or maybe they do live to far away...but not anymore! Here is my new default position:
If people are invited to live in fellowship with other followers of Jesus Christ and give verbal ascent of a desire to do so and yet never follow through and choose instead to maintain lives of isolation - SOMETHING IS WRONG!
Too often now I have chalked it up as the personality trait of a person or a couple who simply does not want to live in the context of community. They are "private people" I would tell myself. But my personal experience is teaching me that it is most often not a personality issue, but a sin issue. And here is my Biblical basis for this new default position:
"If we say we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin." 1John1:6-7
People who chose to live in isolation usually have something to hide. To live in the light of fellowship with other believers will expose this sin and so they choose to live apart from authentic community. Even if you are not trying to hide something, living in community - by God's design - will expose issues of sin which inhibit your growth and maturity in Christ. That is one of the important purposes of the church: Sanctification of the Saints to the glory of God. Living apart from this fellowship is at worst a deliberate attempt to hide sin and at best a selfish choice to remain in control or self protect ultimately and inevitably resulting in stunted spiritual growth.
"Oh, but I read my Bible or I watch this great preacher on TV or I don't like church because of all the hypocrites."
"If we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another..."
Need another one? How abut this:
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to encourage one anther to love and good deeds, not forsaking our gathering together , as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as the day draws near." Heb. 10:23-25
As we prepare for Christ's return, may we fight against the influence of the world which continues to isolate our lives from one another as so poignantly made clear in the new Pixar movie Wall-E. Left to itself, and by the design of the enemy, this is the natural course we will take. Yet, God calls us to walk in the light of authentic community with other Christians and even more as the day draws near. Today is nearer than yesterday and tomorrow may be the day!