“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” – Eph. 4:15-16
Psychotherapist Gary Greenberg once referred to his practice as “the business of renting out love”. Put another way, when we lack loving, wise relationships, we don’t simply go on to live healthy, productive lives as lone wolves; if we can’t have input from a genuine community, outside perspective and insight must be sought elsewhere, at times even purchased.
This is not how things are supposed to be; we weren’t meant to try and make sense of the varied and sundry experiences of everyday life alone. Joy and sorrow, riches and poverty, success and failure, health and sickness, life and death…all of us at one point or another will encounter these things; it is not a question of if, but when. When a loved one betrays us, a business endeavor fails, we drank too much again, a mother miscarries, we respond angrily toward our children for the umpteenth time, we experience some personal moral failure, we don’t know what to do with our rebellious teenager, our emotions are all over the map because we lost a loved one to cancer; when life turns in unforeseen and undesirable directions we need more than a “don’t worry, I got this” mentality. We need more than just a “rent-a-friend”, and more than just someone to vent all of our un-nameable frustrations to.
We need words of counsel, candor, care, and all of these from one who we know loves us in spite of the not-so-lovely aspects of our character. We need to know that we can be forgiven by God, and that no matter what the current state of affairs may be there is hope for redemptive change. We need a community of faithful friends, friends whose words at times feel more like healing balm, and at others seem to burn more than heal, but are always spoken with healing intent (Proverbs 27:6, 17).
Christ’s Church is meant to be such a community.
Christ builds us, together, as a people, as a community, under the guidance of His word as it is proclaimed and taken to heart through the ministry of preaching and teaching. God’s intention is for the Church to be shaped and cleansed within the Church, and that includes taking one’s sorrows, woes, and inadequacies (the things we don’t normally want people to see, know, or give feedback about) and laying them before faithful friends who will then walk alongside us, in both critique and comfort. It’s
more than just having a few specialized people who are the go-to’s for counseling during hardships in life. It’s about creating and sustaining a culture within the community that together continually acknowledges its need for growth – but again – a culture which together seeks the maturity that we can only attain by living life together under the lordship of the Risen Christ.
The work of counseling, of speaking healing words and being a faithful, healing presence, is the work of the local Church. It is our prayer at TGC that our community life would be teeming with wise and compassionate counsel stemming from the lives of those who realize the depths to which we all have sunk, but that Christ’s grace and rule are deeper still.