I love my friends.

I do not love them in the sense that a fourteen year-old girl means when she splashes the phrase “I love my friends” across her Facebook page.

I love my friends with a far greater depth than that. My friends, really my brothers and sisters in Christ, represent Jesus on a daily basis to me. As my friend Annie said last night on Facebook, “Dear world, if you desire to understand the love of Jesus talk to Graham Rutledge, Jacob Alan Lowe, and Eric Schumann.” Apparently my friends Jacob, Graham, and Eric dropped what my friend Amanda called a “love bomb” on her and Annie. I don’t know much about what my brothers did for my sisters, but it involved homemade apple pie, dinner, encouragement, and prayer.

Living in Christian community is such a joy. When we break down our artificial walls and elevate the freeing power of Christ’s cross, then our shame and fear are gone and we can rejoice together. The stories that Christians tell each other run the gambit:

In lust; Pride; Greed; Hate; Depression; Hedonism; Anorexia; Chronic                          Lying; Selfishness; Mistrust; Fear; Violence; Racism; Anger; Despair. . .

I was trapped; hidden; controlled; captivated; bound. . .

but in Christ I have been redeemed; saved; set free; ransomed; vindicated. . .

and released to preach the Gospel.”

That, at least, is what we normally think of when we think of testimony. And, of course, for many people it is true. But, with my friends—my community—I have found a more nuanced story. You see, the above story is individualist and prizes a narcissistic soteriology. The above story is true, don’t get me wrong, but it isn’t the whole truth. I think it skips, though, the church as an agent of redemption from start to finish. You were never meant, as an individual, to pursue Jesus by yourself.

It is one thing for me to come to church or a bible study and talk about the fact that I used to be a porn addict, but that Jesus has set me free. It is an entirely different thing for me to be part of a community which walks with me through my continued struggles, to this day, with lust. And, more than that, to be part of a community which itself is an agent of redemption in that it is healing my heart from the wounds of the world through love. You see, we are not just saved as individuals, though there is that dimension. We don’t just have a ticket to Heaven when we die, though we have that too.

God is saving a people. He is calling out of the earth a Kingdom transformed by redemptive and powerful love. This Kingdom works towards bringing Heaven to earth. One day Jesus will return, and all will be new, and during the in between time, in the already but not yet, we act, together, as agents of redemption.

One of my good friends sent me a text yesterday confessing trepidation about the future and fear of being vulnerable. We talked about it a bit and she found some peace. That conversation breached many of the barriers our culture would ordinarily put between she and I.

Josh Patterson, a pastor at The Village Church in the Metroplex, said once that there is a difference between guarding your heart and setting up “fortress me.” Learn to live in the necessary vulnerabilities.

My friends Drew Dixon and Morgan Negaard once wrote a song together called “Grace in Action” which can be heard here. It is a song about healing they were finding in Christ through each other, through the scars that connect them to each other and to Christ. I was listening to the song on Wednesday and felt inspired to write a poem. Drew is in Uganda, so I can’t contact him, but I did receive permission from Morgan to mix my recording of the poem with the song. You can listen to it here. Below is the text of the poem.

All of us come, a people scarred.

Wings still beating, suffering hard

the tyranny of former wars,

locked in a cage, crammed behind bars

A lie, it seems, that cry we heard,

that we know best, that we endure.

Then the Other comes, both straight and sure.

Make way his path; obey his word.

With whom shall we sing songs of healing?

With whom shall we raise our voices in praise?

Whose hearts will break, at night, wake,

our souls crying out, “We all are fakes”?

Around his cross, gather we all

to gaze at his scars, then tremble and fall

each grabbing a hand, we look at a palm

seeing our scars, hearing the call:

Our scars connect. Our scars connect.

His scars protect. His scars protect.

Our scars connect. Our scars connect.

His scars protect. His scars protect.

Our wounds are real. Our wounds are real.

His wounds have healed. His wounds have healed.

Our wounds are real. Our wounds are real.

His wounds have healed. He has healed.

Think about your story. Are you and Jesus the only characters? Are you the only character? Do other people play any sort of important role in your story? Whether you admit it or not, you are part of the Meta-narrative of God. Your are part of what has been called the Theo-drama. Live in the Jesus story and you will meet other people also in the Jesus story.