Church is not a group of people who take refuge in each other. The purpose is not to always be there for each other and never let each other down. You’ll quickly be disappointed if you walk in with the expectation of receiving never-ending friendship and intimacy from the people you meet. In no time at all, you’ll be “church hopping” again, just waiting to find the place with the people who can really give you what you’re looking for.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be able to connect on a basic level with people at the church you call home. Community is a real and incredibly important thing. You should trust the people you know to take God seriously enough to care about your relationship with Him. And just as you are accepted by God through faith in Jesus, you should feel acceptance from your church so you can begin or continue to grow in your belief of the gospel. By the way, that kind of growing belief means you don’t expect to stay as you are–but that’s a different article.
Contrary to what many who come to church might think, the healthiest churches aren’t full of super-human people focused on taking care of other people’s problems. Yes, healthy churches are groups of people who find joy in caring and serving each other, even as they admit they are broken themselves. And yes, a church of people should be united together in meaningful relationships. But those are just a few of the many byproducts of when people in a group seek after and enjoy their individual, intimate relationships with Christ.
In the church or out, people cannot fulfill even themselves, let alone each other. We may try to cover it up with smooth scripture like “you’re supposed to love others,” but where in scripture does it say this love from others is supposed to solve our problems? Only God can do that, and expecting fulfillment from a Christian friendship is just as idolatrous as looking to drugs or sex to fill the void we feel. In fact, the scripture we cite in support of our expectation to find love in human relationships with Christians are only in the context of the first and greatest commandment of loving God. It doesn’t work to seek or expect a never-ending friendship with a Christian without first seeking to know what makes that person a Christian in the first place. We should go to the source of the love because we will never be truly satisfied with the middle man. We weren’t meant to be.
The church is an army of believers, shoulder-to-shoulder while loving, trusting and enjoying Jesus first. We are image bearers, which means all the credit for attractiveness in our lives should go to He whose image we bear. The thrill of following and pursuing Jesus outweighs anything a relationship with any of those believers could bring to our lives. That doesn’t mean relationships with each other aren’t present and even strong. It just means we don’t let ourselves get tricked into believing the byproduct of the mission is the mission itself.
Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” That’s John 13:35. Yes, the key is love for one another, but notice He didn’t say “By this all people will want to be your friend….” He said by the love you have for each other (speaking to fellow believers), onlookers will know you belong to me–that your hope is joyfully found in me. We can love people amazingly well and still fall short of this verse if the purpose of our love fails to reveal our personal dedication to Christ.
In the church, we rely on and trust in each other. But Jesus is the one who makes our trust in each other possible. And so the One we seek and trust first is Jesus. If we didn’t, church would be no different than any social club you can meet with on the weekends.