No Rest Outside Community

“Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother…” (2 Cor 2:12-13)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body…” (Col. 3:15)

For the past century or so, western Christians have been buying in to the idea that peace can be found in the American Dream, wealth, security and all the comforts money can buy. With all this fleshly comfort abounding, who needs fellowship? Who desperately needs their brothers and sisters in Christ to feel at rest? And who can blame them? It would have seemed, what with the lack of any true danger or persecution lurking, with the money coming in, secure neighborhoods and all why not feel that way? And, unfortunately, the church played right into it by providing an hour or two a week in the temple to make people feel they had the comforts of God to add to all their other securities. What more do we need, right?

In the verse from 2 Corinthians 2 above, Paul seemed to be in a pretty good place as well, although nothing to rival the physical comforts we’ve known here for so long. He was doing what he was put on earth for, going to Troas to spread “the Gospel of Christ.” And, if there was any question as to whether Paul was doing this with God’s blessing, we read he was going because “a door was opened for him in the Lord.” Wow! Seems like the perfect scenario, yes? But something was troubling Paul, even though it seemed the stars were all aligned in his journey at the time. For, you see, this Apostle who had written more about peace and hope and love and rest than any other, somehow found rest eluding him. Why would someone like Paul who was so assured of himself, so assured of his place in the kingdom, and so confident in his ministry and God’s blessing have no rest? In Paul’s own words, “I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother.”

Many of my favorite verses concerning peace and hope and rest come from the Paul’s Epistles. Who can forget Philippians 4 where he exhorts, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus?” and, “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you?” Peace and rest go hand in hand, and we cannot experience one exclusive of the other. No less than 18 times in the Book of Romans Paul speaks of the hope we all can find in Christ, and who can have rest or peace without hope? Perhaps the most challenging verse from Paul’s Epistles, one that has been my constant, and challenging, companion over the recent past, is found in Philippians 4, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Contentment, rest, peace and hope are four peas in a pod, and yet without the fellowship of community Paul said these qualities eluded him.

And were this not enough, Proverbs tells us two are sharpened by each other through community, Ecclesiastes says the chords of community are not easily broken when trouble comes, James says physical and spiritual healing come from employing community, and Paul tells us every spiritual gifting is to be discovered, developed, and deployed within community! Furthermore, as I have written often, Jesus’ first act on earth was to establish community with His disciples, and then one of His last acts was to pray for them (John 17), and likewise the Spirit’s first act was to establish His community at Pentecost. Why, because God knew we were not to go this alone, even on point in ministries blessed by Him. Paul’s definition of love tells us why we can’t go it alone, because, “love keeps nothing for itself” (1 Cor. 13). Love must join with others and give to others or it dies. It certainly can “find no rest” until it does, and our God is the God of love.

I will close with Paul’s words revealing where he alone found the rest he lacked in Corinth. He proclaims he found it in the church at Rome, “That I may come to you in joy by the will of God and find refreshing rest in your company!” To those saved by Jesus and indwelt with the Holy Spirit the only place we will experience love, His love, fulfilled and the resulting rest, peace, and hope is in the Ekklesia, the body of Christ, for it is there we not only experience His love for us expressed in or spirit, but His love for His church expressed in our souls and made manifest in the flesh as well!