Friday, May 21, 2010

Justification and Community

Justification and community. Two inseparable friends that are too often kept apart in the Body of Christ.

I am slowly coming to a better understanding of how inextricably linked these two are. In the church, like so much of our lives, we tend to put things into silos. Justification goes here. The church community goes there. Friends and family go over there. A proper understanding of the Kingdom demands that we view all of life through the lens of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are saved out of an eternal hell but we are also saved into a community of faith. That community is not something that can be forced but it is something that should occur naturally when allowed to flourish among believers. Having said that, Christian community is only as sound as the understanding of the person and work of Christ in the people of the community. Christian community is based in the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

It is possible, but not healthy, to become so fixated on the cross and deep conversations about justification that we lose sight of the community of the redeemed. The life of a disciple of Christ is more than being born-again and then waiting around for the Second Coming or death, whichever comes first, interspersed by going to church on Sunday morning.

It is possible, but quite dangerous, to become so fixated on unity and community that we lose the wondrous truth of the cross work of Christ. Justification by faith alone, the imputed righteousness of Christ, the secure salvation purchased by Christ.

Bottom line. There can be no genuine Christian community where people are unregenerate. There can be no genuine Christian unity where the Gospel is wrongly understood. Christianity is more than a set of beliefs but it is certainly not less than the sum of those beliefs. There is a real danger in putting the community cart before the doctrinal horse. Similarly, there can be no faithful expression of the church where community is forced or absent entirely. The most theologically orthodox church where community is reduced to an hour long "worship service" is not faithful to the Scriptural expression of the church.

I have so much more to learn about this relationship. I am excited about that not so that I can say I am right and that guy is wrong. I am excited about it because it helps to clarify so much of what I see as the disconnect between doctrine and practice that makes the church so splintered and confusing.

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