May22WedMay 22, 2019
Our children are wrapping up another year in school, and whether she admits it or not, there is one thing our daughter will inevitably miss. She will miss being around people. The Lord has given her such a tremendous heart for building relationships. It’s such a joy to visit a park and see how quickly she makes a new friend or reconnects with someone.
Now frankly, many people are not built like our daughter. Many prefer solitude over large social circles. Nevertheless, introverts and extroverts, were designed by God to live in community. Notice that even before sin entered the world, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Since God lives in a mysterious divine community called the Trinity, He also requires that we experience the joy of life with others.
The Scriptures are full of examples of community life. However, one element which is often overlooked is God’s command for His spiritual community to be ever expanding. For example, the Lord had built into the economy of Israel cities of refuge for strangers to live in (Num. 35:15) and commands to give aid to outsiders who needed it (Deut. 14:21, 26:12, Lev. 23:22). Likewise, Israelites were supposed to welcome sojourners into their assembly when the Word of God was preached (Deut. 31:12). If the stranger desired to follow the Lord, there were ways in which they could be folded into God’s covenant people (Num. 9:14, Ex. 12:48).
The nation of Israel was never designed to be an exclusive club. Now, certainly God ordained boundaries and expectations for spiritual life together, but newcomers were always welcome. Therefore, when the Messiah came, His disciples shouldn’t have been surprised that Jesus parting benediction included the command to “go and make [more] disciples among all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
Every Christian is called to make disciples. Sorry, no exceptions. This requires us to always be on the lookout for new relationships. This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges that many of us face. It’s so easy to be comfortable knowing “enough” people or only spending time with family members. Yes, disciple-making should happen here too. But soon, without even being aware, we have closed ourselves off to the new relationships that God brings our way.
Fortunately, Naomi didn’t have that posture when her son married a Moabite named Ruth. Fortunately, Boaz didn’t have that posture when an immigrant woman began to glean in his field. Fortunately, the Apostle Paul didn’t have that posture as he, a highly educated Jewish man, traveled into Greek-speaking, pagan neighborhoods. If you turn to Romans 16, you’ll notice the names of at least twenty-eight individuals - many of whom were likely led to the Lord by Paul himself. Thus, because of Paul, they made the relational journey from stranger, to acquaintance, to a disciple-making friend or church leader. Without these new relationships, the Bible would likely be missing the book of Ruth and most of the New Testament letters!
At one point in Jesus’ ministry, He encouraged his disciples to “lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest” (John 4:35). He was saying that people who need authentic, God-centered community were right before their eyes. That’s still true for us. They work at the grocery store. They teach within our school district. They sell us insurance. They live next door.
As summer arrives, would you join me in asking the Lord to open our lives to new friendships – even just one? It is God’s heart and mission for us until He returns again. Let the summer of relationships begin!