“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”
Sometimes we forget the fact that New Testament letters like Paul’s to the Romans were originally meant to be read, studied, and practiced in community. Commands like these from Romans 12, then—to rejoice, to be patient, to be persistent in prayer—are not just for individual Christians. They’re for the people of God. We are to rejoice together, be patient together, pray together.
Thankfully, a day is coming on earth when there will be no more memorials, no more remembrances of tragedies, no more cancer, no more sickness, no more sore throats, heartburn, terrorist attacks, anger, or tears. All these things will simply cease to be, and in that truth we rejoice in hope. But for now, we live in the midst of these horrible things, overwhelmed by them, with no human match for them. And though we know we’re supposed to rejoice in hope, pray, and be patient, we are “prone to wander.” Therefore, God has given us the gift of community to remind us of what we already know we’ve been given in Christ—a promised reason for enduring. We see this idea expressed beautifully in 1 John 4:10–12 (ESV):
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
That last verse is admittedly a little confusing at first. God’s love is “perfected”? Is John saying that God’s love isn’t perfect otherwise? Has He withheld some element of His love that we only get if we love one another? Absolutely not.
What he’s saying is that when we love each other with a love rooted in the gospel, we are able to see an even more tangible expression of God’s love for us in Christ. Real-life experiences of loving each other well provide a visceral way of remembering something we so easily forget: the fullness of God’s love for us in Christ. When pain makes us forget for a moment about everything God is and everything He’s done, we choose to love each other . . . and we remember. Gospel-centered community brings us back to our gospel senses.
Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and I are posting questions each month for church leaders to discuss with their teams. The content and questions are based on our book Creature of the Word. You can get the book here and access the monthly audit here.