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  • The Rev. Charles Smith

Can’t get to Heaven by Yourself


You can’t get to Heaven by yourself so we have gotta figure this out.


It is so easy to fall into the mindset that I‘m good and I have got this. It is so easy to fall into the mindset that it does not really matter how I relate to others—as long as I have got a good relationship with Jesus I am good to go. Take me straight to heaven. But you can’t get to heaven by yourself so we had better figure this Christian community thing out.


God is in community. God is always in community. From the very beginning it is God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in that perfect community of the Trinity that exists. It is the Trinity, God in community, who creates.


When you put your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior you are baptized into the perfect mystical body of Jesus Christ. You become a part of his body and that means you are in community with Jesus himself, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and all the other men, women, and children who themselves have been united with Jesus Christ. Your salvation is only possible through that unity with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that means unity with Jesus’ body, his church.


Salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body. In the bible we see God always working this way—in community.


In the Old Testament we see God working for the salvation of the world through the people of Israel. It is not just Moses or Moses and his closest friends that God comes to rescue. God comes to rescue all of Israel. The story of the Passover is not just a story for those who were alive and experienced it but is to be a perpetual memory for all of Israel. It is a part of who the people are together. God’s saving work is worked out in and through his people.

In the New Testament Jesus works for the salvation of the world with and through his disciples. It is through the disciples, the Church that the work of the Gospel is carried out.


With community comes conflict.


People disagree. People fight. That is just the way it is. When we are in community with one another, especially if it is a community

that matters and means something, we will have disagreements and fights. Jesus’ disciples even managed to get into a few dust ups with one another WHILE they were walking down the street with Jesus.


The disciples got into fights with one another not because they were bad people but because they are people. We sometimes get into fights with one another not because we are bad people but because we are people. How we end up dealing with our fights is what helps to make us a saint or something else.


Jesus says when a brother or sister sins against you go and seek out your brother or sister privately. Let them know what is going on so that the person may be brought back into community with you and Jesus.


Underlying this is the assumption that you see the person who has sinned against you as a brother or sister. You are family and part of being family means being stuck with one another even if you don’t like each other that much right now. Part of being family means loving one another even if you don’t like each other that much right now. St. Paul talks about this in Romans 13 when he says to not owe anyone anything except to love one another. When you love you are doing what the Lord requires of you.


The type of “love” that Jesus and Paul are talking about is not just the warm feelings sort of love but of actually seeking what is in the long term best interest of the other person. The word they are using in Greek is αγαπάω (agapao but you may have heard of it as “agape”) but it means loving in such a way that you are doing what is actually going to be good for the other person, which is different than being nice.


Loving your brother or sister means having the uncomfortable conversation to help you both become better friends with God. Loving your brother or sister means figuring it out and staying in community with one another. Remember there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ and his Church—we need one another if we are going to become saints.


If you and your brother or sister can’t figure this out together Jesus tells you to take a couple of other brothers and sisters with you and keep working on this together. If y’all still can’t figure it out bring things, in that agapao love to the whole Church gathered in your area. The hope and goal is always remaining in community. You are to have the kind of love for the person who has sinned against you that hopes, and bears, and endures all things—the kind of love that would make you willing to die for your brother. This is what Jesus does for you and what he expect you to do for your brothers and sisters.


If all y’all still can’t figure it out then, as Jesus would say, “let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Don’t think this means that you finally get to write that other person off. Remember that God is always in and all about community.


God is so much about community that when Jesus comes he spends a huge amount of his time with the Gentiles and tax collectors and other “un-desirable” people. Jesus spent so much time with the “un-desirables” that he developed a reputation problem because of having so many dinners with tax collectors and prostitutes and all sorts of unsavory sorts of people.




Even when someone chooses to cut himself off from the Jesus’ body the Church you are responsible for loving them and working towards their good. We need each other if we want to be friends with God and to become saints.


Remember, you can’t get to heaven by yourself so we gotta figure this Christian community thing out


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