It’s common, when people join a new church for there to be great excitement, in part because it’s new. Everyone has on their best face and there’s hope, peace and lots of smiles. Over time, however, the new wears off and reality sets in. People start to know us and we start to know them. There’s an irony that in a very large church it’s possible for us to remain unknown (or even anonymous), whereas in a smaller group this is difficult to maintain. Little-by-little we’re seen in a variety of situations; interacting with our spouse, our children and with others in the covenant community. We see one another’s sins and failures and, inevitably, conflicts arise. We’re exposed for who we really are and that can feel scary and threatening. We liked it better when we could manage our image and feel in control. When this happens we might be tempted to withdraw and seek cover. This can be done in a variety of ways and to varying degrees. For some, this can even become a pattern in all their relationships.
To be fully known and fully loved is the greatest sense of security. God knows us and He loves us. He’s not going to discover something about us tomorrow that will jeopardize His love for us. Part of His love for us is demonstrated in that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Moreover, Christ died for the church and He places His people in local churches (communities) where they can also be known and be loved. If every time we start to be known we retreat, then we can never experience the satisfying security of being known and loved by the Body of Christ. True fellowship involves two or more fellows on one ship, and in the case of a local church, it involves a number of sinful fellows on the same ship. This can be (and often is) a humbling experience, but this is also a good thing. God exalts the humble in due time.
To be truly known is difficult for us. To love those who we know is also difficult. It’s much easier to love people that we don’t know very well and to keep our relationships superficial and manageable. Loving the world is easier for us than loving our neighbor. Therefore, God exhorts us to not only love our neighbors and to love one another, He has emphasized that we must, “love one another fervently with a pure heart,” (1 Peter 1:22); and “above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’” (1 Peter 4:8).