—Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (27 May, "The Life To Know Him")
Community Group Tuesday left me a combination of concerned, confused, convicted, frustrated, and furious. For now, I've kept most of those feelings to myself (with the exception of Heather, my co-leader). Longer story than I'm now in the mood to tell, but I'm continually bothered by how much so many of us refuse to see, how little responsibility any of us are willing to take to see Christ formed in us. We believe our salvation too small a thing, and we believe our world too safe a place. Will it take more pain and suffering to wake us up? If so, God will give it, out of love rather than punishment. It will still hurt.
I have expectations of others, and so does God. In His case, His love for those who would believe is both demonstrated by and eternally secured in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. That doesn't remove the expectations; they are instead transferred to the life of His Son in us. Forgiveness is infinite, but it doesn't make all things equal. Obedience and disobedience do not have the same value. Following Him or living for ourselves is not an even choice.
In my case, I need to get over the hump of feeling as if having expectations of others is unfair. Those expectations may be unfair, but having them is simply a truth. I'd suggest that anyone who claims they don't have such expectations is being flat-out dishonest with themselves and with others, maintaining a facade of acceptance that is at best indifference and at worst a cloak preventing authentic relationship. Like Him, I want those expectations to be characterized by grace, those relationships to be rife with forgiveness and love. Forgiveness cannot exist in the absence of expectation, nor can genuine love.
Some in my group have expressed a desire for a place just to "be," and as beautiful as that sounds, our place to rest must be in Jesus. He bids us to come, because He is the one who gives true rest. I believe that, so if I love them, I can't let them just "be" anywhere else—it would be akin to letting a loved one plop down in the middle of a war zone because they're tired when a place of refuge and strength is just around the bend.
My desire for our group is that we would be a people who grow closer looking at Christ together, that He would be worshipped by our community rather than our community becoming the idol of our worship. I can know a person in a unique, deep, and holy way by seeking Christ with them. This is also my desire for marriage, should I ever marry. Merely delving into the "depths" of one another is narcissistic and ultimately destructive. There is no life in this alone, only illusion.
Bottom line: I need to be more faithful in prayer for my group, for my friends. More than any teaching or counsel, this is what can do them good. The well we must draw from is not community or relationship, but Christ. When He is in these things, they are amazing and redemptive. But the Kingdom must be sought first; the rest is added by God.