By STEFANIE BENNETT|CONTRIBUTOR
Week 1: Closer Than a Sister, Part 1: Chapters 1-3 (pp. 23-61)
We have many “shoulds” in our lives—
I should go to church.
I should join a Bible study.
I should spend time getting to know other women.
But we have all seen the long-term effects of acting on “shoulds” without having a proper foundation and motivation for doing them—we burn out, give up, or become disillusioned.
The Triune Community
That is why our first session of Christina Fox’s Closer Than a Sister, which covered Part 1 (chapters 1-3), is so purposeful. If we are to seek, serve, and savor Christian community with our sisters, we cannot get there through self-compulsion and “shoulds.” Instead, this desire flows from a woman who relishes God’s design for a life of community as she sees it reflected and perfected in the triune Godhead.
We see from the beginning that the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) “is one of self-giving love, each one delighting in, adoring, honoring, and treasuring one another” likewise “united as one, infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, and mutual eternal love” (Fox, 25; c.f. John 10:30; John 16:13-14; John 17:5, 26). Oh Christian, what a profound community!
The Abiding Community
Perhaps the most beautiful and magnificent reality is that God is complete and content in and of himself, abiding in perfect community from before the foundation of the world. He had no need for us. And yet… oh, how he loves! How he invites us in to such a community by calling us to abide in Him and with his people. It is a profound privilege.
Indeed, abiding in Christ gives us everything we need for life and godliness (cf. John 15:1-6; 2 Peter 1:3). “We receive our spiritual life and health from our union in Christ,” and we must continue to draw from this well-spring if we are to love others in the fulfilling, selfless, life-giving way Christ modeled for us (Fox, 41-42; c.f. John 15:1-6). Abiding in Christ will produce fruitful, fragrant lives of love and fellowship that reflect the very image in which we were created. “As we seek to love and serve our sisters in Christ and they in turn love and serve us, we are living out our union with Christ. We are reflecting the triune community” (Fox).
The Nourished Community
But, Sisters, less we think that this community is held together by our sheer will-power to love and serve, let us continually remind ourselves that Christ is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (c.f. Hebrews 12:2). He is the covenant-initiator and covenant-keeper. Community takes work. We are easily distracted. We are prone to forgetfulness. We forget who we are and whose we are. We forget (or ignore) that we were made for community (Fox). Here, too, our Christ has provided a way, because “the glorious truth of the Gospel is that our union with Christ is not contingent upon our grasp of Christ but of His grasp of us” (Fox, 60). Therefore, our union with Christ nourishes and transforms us to live out our design in the context of community, not just because we have a glorious, perfect example, but also because we continually drink from the living water that compels us to dwell well in the community for which we were made.