By nature, I’m a solitary person. I often joke that I’m not an I for introvert but an H for hermit. Group activities are not high on my list. And yet, lately I have had a new appreciation for what we call ‘the body of Christ’. I’ve realized again that being in relationship is at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. There is the trinitarian relationship in God Himself, there is God restoring fellowship with us, and then we become connected with others to be “built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” as Paul put it to the Ephesians.
Back in his day, there wasn’t any choice if you wanted to join with other disciples of Jesus. You found yourself with people from all walks of life and cultures. But now, in the states at least, there are so many different churches, we can go ‘church shopping’ [an oxymoron if ever there was one] and chose one that fits us best, a warm cozy place populated with people like us. Do we like the worship style, the theology, the church’s position on x, y or z? Do we have the same political views? Are we in the same stage of life? Do we have similar interests? Frankly, that’s often how J and I chose where to go.
Then we moved overseas to a city that has exactly one Protestant English-speaking church. Suddenly, we found ourselves confronting differences galore: theology, culture, language, politics, interests, spiritual practice. Really the only thing the people have in common with each other, besides being expatriates in this country, is a common faith in Jesus Christ.
This past weekend, 19 women from the church traveled a few hours south for a retreat in a traditional house with a wonderful interior courtyard and garden.
Our ages spanned 5 decades, we came from 8 countries and from every denominational stripe. We were single and married, with children and without children, with different careers and levels of education. Some of us were new to the country, others have lived here for much of their adult lives.
Yet as we came together, in spite of all those differences, there was a spirit of love and of belonging. Unlike a human community based on natural interests and affinities, we were part of a spiritual community created by the Holy Spirit.
It was an amazing experience. We laughed together, ate together, shared together, went shopping and sightseeing together, had coffee together. It felt like we had known each other all our lives, like we were family.
It was a little taste of heaven.
We must all be saved together! Reach God together! Appear before Him together! We must return to our Father’s house together…what would He think if we arrived without the others?