The Following is a Paper I wrote for an Assignment
There exists a tension between living independently in Christ’s empowerment and functioning dependently within His Church body. An example of this is clearly displayed in the role of missions. While there are certain things some of us are called to do, there are many things all of us are commanded to do. Believers across all generations of Church history have been commanded to go into all the world preaching the Gospel of Christ. However, God has not called every Christian, individually, to enter the darkest jungles of Papua New Guinea and spend thirty years of their lives devoting themselves to Bible translation. We have all been given a specific assignment from the Lord which, working together, will result in finishing out the Great Commission.
With that said, it is true for someone to speak of their personal relationship with God, but it is equally true, and must never be forgotten, that we all share a corporate relationship with the Lord as His bride. While there is great value in our individual time spent in God’s Word and in prayer, the Christian life as a whole was never designed to be a solo mission. Christianity is not a one-man band and does not give credence to the lone-ranger mentality. Our faith is meant to be communal in nature.
A question was expressed in class the other day regarding whether or not we need to be open and transparent with other people or if we can simply push through life allowing God to be the only One to really know our hearts. The question initially posed supported the idea that it is okay for true transparency to take place only between you and God – fully devoid of other people. While I disagree with this interpretation, I believe this is a very common misconception which runs deep within our own veins and worthy of our attention and study. After all, if students in a Christian educational institute struggle with this issue when we have the opportunity to study God’s Word in great depth every day, then how much more will those to whom we will minister to within our lifetimes wrestle with this question?
The Apostle Paul, writing to the believers in Corinth, illustrated the corporate life of the Church in several ways. Two of the mental images he attempted to portray the Church as was that of a temple and of a human body. As a temple (1 Corinthians 6:19), we are all joined together into and make up the one temple of God. It is easy in English to miss the significance of this statement, but the apostle uses the second person plural pronoun (you) in his address to them and then speaks of the temple as a singular entity. [Yes, I am a nerd.] Thus, Biblically speaking, it is not true to refer to any one person as being the temple of the Holy Spirit—as if there were millions of little temples running around on the earth. What Paul is saying is that there is one temple of God in the world and that is His Church. The same is true in the human body analogy given in chapter twelve.
Furthermore, the first epistle of John focuses on the fellowship believers are to have with one another. Located within this overall context of togetherness is 1 John 1:9 which reads, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We often read this passage as urging us to confess our sins to God but, while this is true and good, the context of 1 John would seem to imply more of a corporate confession. Specifically, one which allows others the opportunity to live out their faith with us walking side by side as we grow up together into the mature man (Eph. 4:13; Jam. 5:16; Gal. 6:1-2).
The ability to exercise Biblical vulnerability is not a character trait any of us will ever just wake up with one day. It is a process of intentional growth in which we are exhorted to be cultivating in our own lives through regular practice. I am not at all saying that it is easy. On the contrary, it is both difficult and scary. In being transparent we open ourselves up to possible ridicule, humiliation, and even rejection. However, if we firmly believe that God is good and wants the absolute best for us, then as we submit our lives to His Sovereignty, we can be sure that He will go before us into every conversation. Further, He will come out with us on the other side full of mercy and grace in developing our characters to be more like His Son. We may get hurt, but there is coming a day when God will wipe away every tear we cry (Rev. 21:4). God’s desire is to grow us into the image of His Son even though that may be painful at times.
While there will be those who seek to do us harm, the hurt they cause will never outweigh the joy of building solid friendships and having a close group of brothers and sisters by your side through mutual vulnerability. It may be scary and uncomfortable to share with those around us what we are struggling with, but we cannot live our lives in fear that someone will betray our trust. We must resist the lie and run to the truth of God that deep communal relationships are actually freeing to our souls and it is what God has ordained in the creation of man. Ultimately, our ability to extend vulnerability and thus trust to others flows from our view of God and our trust in His Sovereignty over our lives. As leaders, we are to be the examples in our churches and communities of what living in open fellowship is meant to look like in the body of Christ. The way we relate with others should not only whet the appetites of other believers in your sphere of influence, but also draw in unbelievers who want to know more and who long for close authentic fellowship.