“I have no need for friendship; friendship causes pain. Its laughter and its loving I disdain. I am a rock. I am an island.” -Simon and Garfunkle
I recently shared to the youth at my church about how I believed I could tell them what they would be like in 5 years if I knew the 5 most important people to them. I imagine that most students in middle and high school would name their parents and 3 friends, but this theory about 5 people isn’t just an idea I have. Since I shared it I’ve heard it spoken of other places as well, and research tends to support the theory as well.
I think we all inherently know this. We tell children to choose their friends wisely. Each of our lives is ultimately shaped by the input and influence of many people.
But we fail to take this line of thinking to its full weight. We allow it to stay as a motivational thought, “You need to spend time with positive people.” Or we make introverts feel bad, “you can’t just hang out with yourself all the time.”
Discipleship is a decision. It’s the easiest and yet the hardest. Choose to spend time with people who rub me the wrong way? Choose to give up my own free time to be convicted and challenged? If we took the long view we’d see how necessary saying yes is, but how difficult it is in the moment.
I believe Christians have a responsibility to join up with a church community. This isn’t a voluntary thing. God doesn’t give us a list of exceptions, like “if the church has burned you three times, then you get a free pass.” How could such a compassionate God send us back time and time again? He’s taken the long view, and His presence pours into our lives within the gathered body of Christ.
We need each other.
I think God desires for us not to give up meeting together because he knows the power the people around us have in shaping us. God knows that nothing is more powerful to bring about change than the people around us. If who you are becoming isn’t up to you then you must make an effort to surround yourself with godly people.
God’s Spirit is often thought of a numinous mystery that cannot be understood. Yet it is that same Spirit which created the world and overcame the grave which God poured into you. And it is that same Spirit which inhabits your interactions with others. Life might be more comfortable in isolation, but God’s Spirit surrounds your life in a greater immensity when you choose to surround yourself with others.
Find a church community full of people not like you. Not all your age. Not all your style. Not all the same color. Not with all your favorite music. And pour yourself into the church: serving, sacrficing, giving.
Jesus didn’t teach the disciples to take. He taught them to give. Just as Jesus gave His life to them, so they were sent out to give. The same is with you and me. Jesus promises to pour into you through the Holy Spirit and the Spirit empowers you to become a disciple as you choose to follow Christ fully.