I have been watching an extreme amount of the sitcom Friends recently- partly because a good friend of mine bought the entire first season for me for my birthday, and partly because I just absolutely love that show! But watching it has made me realize how much we as believers take ideas from this world and apply them to our own lives, sometimes for better… but more often for worse.
What do I mean by that?
You might look at that t.v. show of the 90’s and early 00’s and wonder what’s wrong with taking our cue from Friends in regards to living in community. (Heaven forbid) You might think that they are a better picture of community life than any Church you know. I wish that this wasn’t the case, but I know from personal experience with those around me that many, although they would never say it, model their “community” of believers after Friends or any number of other terrible examples to live by.
What’s so wrong with that?
Don’t get me wrong, as I mentioned earlier, I love this show– but its a terrible way to live. Here are some examples combined with the proper counterpart as needed in Christian community (please know that I understand the writers and directors of the show had intentions that didn’t include making it a perfect community… my point is simply that we can’t copy them and call it a “Christian” community).
- Exclusivity- The “friends” in their ten years of being together never let anyone in their group. They date people, sure, but these people are often isolated from the rest, unless it’s someone like “fun Bobby”, Alan, or Richard who were all readily accepted by the crew because, well, they were fun. Even Mike (Phoebe’s husband to be) was essentially shunned away. In a Christian community, exclusivity is never an option. We can have age, gender, or need specific groups, but to be exclusive on any other grounds is of Satan. I have heard many forms of this, but most often people wish to cast others out because they don’t meet the required maturity level to be part of the group. This cannot be.
- Time Spent Together- Perhaps one of my favorite episodes involves Phoebe dating a shrink. In this, he analizes everyone in the group. Nobody likes this very much, but he comments on how they do nothing but sit around in their coffee shop complaining about their mundane lives. Sometimes this is what our “Christian” groups consist of: “How are you today?”, “Crappy, my life sucks…”, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll pray for you…” Some community that is! Our time together should not and cannot be wasted on such worldly things as complaints and feathery replies. To quote Piper, and probably every Calvinist since Johnny C. himself, Don’t waste your… (life, time, money, friendships, vacations, retirement, etc…). We as believers must do everything that we can to use our time wisely and do all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). This doesn’t mean that we don’t go to the movies, watch t.v., go out to eat, or do anything fun, indeed, many reformers (such as Calvin) looked to make people realize that God is sovereign over your work and play.
- Correction- There is a slight chance that I am wrong, but in all the episodes I have seen, there has been nothing of the friends correcting anything about anyone else. Sure, they offer advice, even seek forgiveness for wrongs done, which is good, but nobody works to help others be corrected and reconciled. I fear that this is the greatest travesty that has occurred in our Christian circles. The problem is that we teach salvation being a gift of God’s grace (which is good) and encourage constant repentance and need of forgiveness and unity (which are all really good as well). The problem lies in the fact that when we teach initial salvation by grace and through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) we forget to include what the convert has been saved into- that being good works (Eph. 2:10). So, according to the Bible, works are the obvious result of salvation. But nobody likes that part. “You can be saved,” we say, “and keep your life of sin, its ok, God accepts you where you are!” True, we are accepted where we are, but we are to be moving towards holiness daily. If we are not, we need correction. But people shy away from that and remember all of two verses when they do: Matthew 7:1- Judge not, that you be not judged; and 1 John 4:8- Anyone who does not love does not know GOd, because God is love. So, apparently it is a sin for us to tell them they are doing wrong- “Sure! go ahead, get drunk, sleep with your boyfriend, God’s fine with that as long as you love Him!”. Wrong! We need to, we are called to, we are expected to correct people in love. I’ve written extensively about that before, so I’ll let it rest.
Where that leaves us-
So essentially, let’s leave Central Perk and start living out in the world, in a Christian community, in the love and Word of God, by His Spirit, and take His example by His Son’s death on the cross for our need of community to be met properly. And let us obey His Word as told to us in Ephesians 5:25-27~
…As Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sactify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present hte Church to Himself in splendoe without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that she might be holy and without blemish.