Community Series: Community as a taste of Heaven

9-11 Don’t lie to one another. You’re done with that old life. It’s like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you’ve stripped off and put in the fire. Now you’re dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.

12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.
— Colossians 3

The other day, a friend of mine posted a meme on her Facebook page:

I am homesick for a place I am not even sure exists,
Where my heart is full
And my soul is understood.

When I read that, it pierced my heart. I knew exactly the feeling that my friend was evoking. That feeling of being seen, being noticed, being known, being understood, being delighted in, being celebrated. As a Christian, when I read that, I immediately thought of Heaven—that is the place my heart longs for where my tears will be wiped away, my joy will be immeasurable, and my soul will be satisfied with love. And I am positive it exists.

It brings to mind the old C. S. Lewis quote: The fact that our hearts long for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.

Sometimes Heaven seems really far away. Sometimes, it doesn’t; sometimes it is near, like when your friend is battling Stage IV cancer or when your heart is in such despair the only apparent answer is going Home to Jesus. Or when you’ve suffered a miscarriage and the door to Heaven has opened to take your baby to Jesus. Or maybe when you’re at church and the praise team starts playing your favorite hymn, and hearing all the voices around you and being moved toward Jesus while amongst your church family brings you to joyful tears as you realize you have just tasted a tiny bit of the shared joy to come.

Friends, that is what true community is—a tiny taste of the shared joy to come.

In Heaven, everything sad/bad/ugly/painful/devastating will become undone. Jesus is in the redemption business, and when we join Him, just being in His presence will undo the pain we have suffered on this earth. We will be filled with joy, we will be satisfied. We will never again feel misunderstood or overlooked. When God calls us by our name—and not the names others have called us all our lives—we will finally know what it means to be delighted in and known and cherished fully.

What does that mean for us in the meantime? I think it gives us a picture of what our communities should look like. In our communities, people should feel safe. They should feel noticed and never, ever overlooked. They should feel valued and cared for and like their needs are known. They should feel appreciated and desired and celebrated. They should feel like they are being treated according to who they are in Christ—who God says they are—and not who others have unkindly told them they are throughout their lives.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible that addresses how to love each other is Colossians 3. Friends, I have probably read this a hundred times. I just love it, especially The Message translation. This passage is relational. It’s all about how to live in our new identity as God’s children and love each other well. Verse 9 says: Don’t lie to one another; what does Don’t lie mean in that context? How do we lie to each other relationally?

We treat each other according to who we think they are, not who God says they are.

We shame them. We manipulate them. We try to control them. We try to make them feel small. We try to fix them. In doing these things, we are saying, You are not good enough. Even with Jesus, you are not good enough—you need to do other things on top of God’s grace to be good enough, and then I won’t shame you.

Maybe we do other things…maybe we overlook people. We ignore people in the pew behind us or run inside our garages when we see a neighbor coming outside. Maybe we don’t make eye contact with a sales clerk and go through the transaction as though that person isn’t standing there helping us. Maybe we push our children away when we are tired and worn out. Maybe we ignore the phone call from someone who annoys us. We are saying, You don’t have value. You are not important enough for my efforts. Even though Jesus died on a cross for you (for us!), I can’t spare five minutes for you. You’re not worth it.

I am guilty of alllll of these things. All. Why? Why am I guilty? Because I don’t always fully believe God’s love for me. If I believed God loved me as much as He says He does, I would have no other choice—no other urging!—than to extend that same love to others. As my friend John Lynch says, You don’t get better at the attributes of love by working on the attributes of love, but by trusting the love of the One love is attributed to.

Does that ring true in your heart? It rings true in mine. My love for others can only increase if my understanding of God’s love for me increases. God is love. He is the source of love; therefore, how can I love others unless I trust His love for me? How can I build community that is defined by compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, and discipline? By trusting my new identity as God’s beloved daughter and wrapping myself in that truth day to day. By allowing God’s love to envelop my very soul!

Just typing those words makes me tremble. My heart longs for community, but even more so, it longs to truly believe how loved I am, to be safe in God’s love.

Imagine what our communities could look like if we trusted God’s love for us! We could start living out the promise of Home here on earth with each other. As Leslie, a friend of my dear Marcia, says, Life here is a place of discovering the clues and recognizing the truths and getting excited for our real life to come. What better way to do that then to accept Christ’s love and extend it to others?!

Have you ever experienced community as a taste of Heaven? How has understanding God’s love for you changed the way you love others? How has not understanding God’s love for you affected your relationships and attempts at community? Do you have a vision for how your community could grow simply by trusting more and more God’s love for yourselves and each other?

*If you are curious about this promise of Heaven yet are unsure if it’s a promise you will receive, please send us a message through the blog; we would love to answer your questions and help you explore.