You can’t have an “in crowd” without creating an “out crowd.” Who do you let into your circle of friends—and who do you exclude?
One day in the Army, I arrived early for a meeting. It was an unusual meeting. Every battalion was required to send one representative, which meant there was a great variety of folks—infantry, signal, transportation, aviation, etc.
As I sat in the auditorium waiting for things to begin, I noticed something. Each new arrival would stop and scan the room, trying to figure out where to sit. It was like the high school cafeteria all over again—when jocks looked for other jocks, band members looked for their friends, popular girls scanned for other popular girls, etc.
There in the auditorium, everyone came from a different Army unit, so few knew one another. A Caucasian infantry sergeant entered, and I could see the struggle on his face. Should he sit with the Caucasian supply private, or the Hispanic infantry captain, or the female transportation sergeant?
How about the African American aviation lieutenant? What would draw him most strongly to others? His rank, ethnicity, gender, or job?
Why do I share this story? While I don’t remember where each person chose to sit, I realized something fascinating: the fact that everyone is so careful and selective about circles of community. We all want to be with people like us.
So we all instinctively draw circles of community—gathering mostly with people we are comfortable with. We seek people like ourselves because it feels right. But in the church is actually quite wrong.
The Body of Christ is not supposed to be homogeneous, but to be a gathering of very different people, called together by the same Savior.
Before we knew Christ, we all ran in different circles. We were separated from one another and from God. We were “strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” But the blood of Christ “has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace.” (Ephesians 2:12-15)
Christ expects His church to contain very different people, who nonetheless live in unity. We must intentionally break down the circles that used to divide us— because that is what God did for us. The chasm between heaven and earth, divine and human, infinite and finite, has been closed through Christ. And now He calls His church out of division into union.
The Greek word for church is ekklesia. It means, “called out of.” We are people who are called away from family (Luke 14:26) away from ethnicity and nationality (Acts 10:34-35) away even from ourselves (Galatians 2:20, Mark 8:35) and away from any other category that could divide us (Galatians 3:26-29).
“A compassionate life is a life in which fellowship with Christ reveals itself in a new fellowship among those who follow him…We have become a new people with a new mind, a new way of seeing and hearing, and a new hope because of our common fellowship with Christ. Compassion, then, can never be separated from community.” (From Compassion p50-51)
The Apostle Paul urges me in Galatians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, and elsewhere, to see that my circle of fellowship with Christ must supersede all other circles. More than supersede, actually—fellowship with Christ must destroy such circles (Ephesians 2:14).
And so, if you are my brother or sister in Christ, you are family—closer than flesh and blood. We will worship the Lord side by side forever and ever. Should we not, therefore, begin enjoying and celebrating that fellowship today?
Where will you choose to sit? Who will you seek out as friends?