Joy Made Complete
Thirteen girls sat around my living room whose sole desire was to be wrapped up in Jesus. There was no way of knowing what we were getting ourselves into, the depths we would go, or the sisterhood that would be built. The structure that was in place became organic friendship, and it didn't take long before Thursday nights were consecrated before the Lord, and in my memory, deemed as sacred. Although, I remember the talk & study in this group being formative and challenging to my walk with God, it is not the curriculum or the discussion that I regularly look back on. No, it is the flames that were being fanned by the people of God for the people of God.
Have you ever wondered why society/your parents placed such an emphasis on developing relationships at an early age? Why it was encouraged to form habits that included other people? I have to believe it is because the common thread between every person on the planet culminates in one thing - a longing for relational connection. It is a basic human concept to understand considering we are defined relationally down to our DNA (cultural mandate, Gen. 1:28). Likewise, it is a fundamental biblical concept. Woven throughout the arc of Scripture, demonstrated in the Trinity, and manifested through the Church; it is part of our wiring to be in communion with God AND other believers.
I remember first being exposed to this idea of biblical community while I was in college. Our church modeled it well by integrating it into their culture - much like most churches do these days. But for me, it was an earth-shattering, intentional approach to what I had always merely considered casual friendship. They implemented into my vocabulary this big church word that is rooted in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20) to describe this intentional living with one another, life on mission, called "discipleship." I took on the understanding that is so clear throughout the narrative of Scripture that we can't do life alone - no matter your personality type, we simply aren't designed to.
Moreover, there is a fulfillment, a completion of sorts, when this is faithfully fleshed out. Paul says to the church in Philippi, "So, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy, by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind" (Phil. 2:2, ESV). He is contending for the hearts of the Philippians to latch on to one another in an effort to know Christ more and express spiritual unity, whereby his joy is made complete.
There are two things I believe we can take away:
1) Spiritual unity is ours in Christ - 1 Corinthians 3:21-22 assures us that, in Christ, everything is ours. To the Philippians, Paul exhorts them to take hold of what is already theirs (2:5), specifically, a unified mind. We're hard pressed to find anything that resembles unity in recent days, and Christians are bickering within our own camp about secondary, non-essentials. It is past time for us to take Kingdom ground in our unity, rather than splitting up into camp grounds over our differences.
2) Joy is made complete in the context of relationships - There are few times where this phrase is used in Scripture. John sums up his three letters to one point, "... so that you too may have fellowship with us...and we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete" (1 John 1:3-4, ESV). It is a profound statement that is only made possible through the framework of two individuals coming together to spur one another on in love (Heb. 10:24). One commentator writes, "The apostles so shared the heart of Christ for His people that their own joy was bound up in the spiritual well-being of those to whom they ministered" (Bible Knowledge Commentary, NT. 884.)
It isn't enough for us to show up to a small group or Bible study. Our hearts have to be aligned with one another & focused on how to shoulder the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thirteen girls shaped my perspective on biblical community. They transformed how I saw the Gospel. They believed God enough for me when I couldn't believe Him myself. My encouragement for you is to find a group of people who fan into flame the gift of God (2 Tim. 1:6), who are so wrapped up in Jesus that your conversations are different, your thoughts are captivated, and priorities change. It isn't easy. It is going to take a fight. But our joy depends on it.
With thirteen college girls, my joy was made complete & was it ever worth fighting for.