Building Spiritual Community

The fruit of holiness flourishes in the context of spiritual community. Paul prays for abounding love as the context for hearts of holiness (1 Thess 3:12–13), and his prayer for holiness (1 Thess 5:23) follows instructions for spiritual community (5:12–15). How do we build a spiritual community that causes the fruit of holiness to grow? We must receive the life of Christ through spiritual leaders (5:12–13) and share the life of Christ in spiritual community (5:14-15).

How do we share the life of Christ in spiritual community? First, we must  “admonish the idle” (1 Thess 5:14; cf. 4:9–12), provoking them to move forward to engage themselves in their work for God’s kingdom. Each child of God has a specific contribution to the kingdom. When we are idle, we are not fully engaging our God-given resources for that kingdom. Therefore, we must continually provoke the idle to that full potential. As we do so, then the life of Christ flows through us.

Second, we must “encourage the fainthearted” whose hopes have been disappointed (5:14; cf. 4:13–5:11).  Many are discouraged and depressed because their hopes in life were disappointed. We must properly re-inform the content of our hope (4:13–18) on Christ’s purposes. Properly focused hopes help faint hearts to become great hearts. God works through the valleys of disappointment to form us to be more like Christ; then “the valley of grief becomes the vale of soul-making” (N. Wolterstorff).

Finally, we “help the weak” (5:14; cf. 4:1–8) who struggle with sins like sexual immorality by strengthening their hearts in the gospel they have received (4:1–2).  We help them not by coddling them or condemning them but by helping them connect the brokenness of their lives with the riches of Christ.

However, all this takes time. Therefore we must “be patient with them all.” We must be patient with the idle as they move forward to engage God’s purposes. We must be patient with the fainthearted as we re-inform the content of their hope. Finally, we must patiently help the weak to overcome sin by the power of the gospel. People take time, but Christ has power! So let us persevere to let the life of Christ flow through us as we build up the community around us.

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2 Responses to Building Spiritual Community

  1. Kaye Jacob says:

    This all makes perfect sense to me, Mitch, and it is well-articulated, as I would expect. My questions for you would be these: How do we make sure that our community is reflective of the wider context, in terms of the diversity of cultures, socioeconomic groups and orientations to faith and spirituality that represent the Church in its most dynamic manifestations–AND how do we create community across and between faith groups?

    • Mitch Kim says:

      Any credit for being “well-articulated” goes to you, my beloved ninth and eleventh grade English teacher! I still remember my research paper on Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) for your class. I had note cards numbered and keyed to an outline. I wish that my research was still so organized.

      Regarding your first question, it is clear that in Christ the walls of division are broken down, since “he himself is our peace, who has made us both (Jew and Gentile) one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14). Testimonies of reconciliations between Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda after genocide through the church shows the reconciling power of the cross. My own father struggled through his own feelings of racism in planting a church in Tokyo, Japan, as a Korean but overcame and developed a church bridging the barriers between Japanese and Korean.

      Regarding your second question about community between faith groups, this is beyond the purview of 1 Thess 5:14, as the community is focused in the church (cf. 1 Thess 1:2–5).

      Cheers! Hope that thing are well in India!!

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