“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14
I remember reading these words when I was a teen thinking, “Woah, I’m like a city on a hill. Epic! But, what does that mean?” Have you ever read scripture’s declarations or promises and thought something similar? Better yet, have you ever read scripture thinking it applied to you personally, but when you tried to live it out, it felt impossible?
More times than not, it’s because of the same mistake I made. We think scripture is always about us personally. But they were never meant only to speak in that way—they were intended for us corporately, as a community of Jesus followers. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that there isn’t a single promise or declaration that starts and ends with the individual in mind. They all are meant to impact the community.
Which means the scriptures are meant to be lived out in the context of relationships, friendships, and community life.
We’ve been exploring the ethos of friendship this month and I’d like to settle on the purpose behind the friendships we pursue at church.
See, the minute we sign onto following Jesus, we become part of a movement of people who improve, elevate, and empower the environments around them. Our streets, neighborhoods, and city are impacted by the strength of our friendships within our church.
When it comes to improvement, words like programs, events, or fundraisers come to mind. We think resources, time, energy, and organizations. These are all good, don’t get me wrong, but we miss that a church community was intended as a powerful force for good because of their investment in one another.
In other words the strength of friendships within a faith community created an ethos that radically altered the culture around them.
The Apostle Paul best captured how they loved one another.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 2:3-5
Paul essentially called each of them to imitate Jesus. Together. There’s no way to truly imitate Jesus alone. When we prioritize each other and strengthen our friendships as an act of worship, we experience the beauty and power God intended.
As we end our month, let’s take steps toward what A. W. Tozer so effectively described:
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”