What comes to your mind when you think of spiritual growth? Individual growth? Personal development? Noticed how often we associate salvation and christian living thereafter as an individual experience? Well, there's nothing wrong in viewing spiritual growth as an individual experience or learning, to reassure you. But what we often missed is the communal dimension of growth and learning that takes place in genuine Body Life (or Church Life).
One reason why we prefer to shun Body Life, or to merely interact with it at a superficial level, is that we know instinctively that it's highly dangerous. It's a red alert zone and many who was torn and worn by being in it, never get themselves back in good health. Yet for those who choose to persevere in God's grace, they are those who emit a saintly glow after all these years of experiences living among redeemed but imperfect beings. There is no place like heaven than living with our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, who is the Head among us. Ekklesia, is in reality the foretaste of what is going to come.
What happens then when you throw a bunch of though redeemed, but yet imperfect human beings together? It's nothing short of inviting conflicts and friction! Now do you see why we instinctively want to avoid Body Life at all cost? There's simply too much stake to live at less than safety distance beside someone else other than yourself. There is always an inherent risk of being hurt proportionately to the degree of our openness or closeness to another living being. And this is true for marriages also. In fact, how well we live with our spouse, will be indicative of how good we can share our lives with other believers.
Little do we realise that God's way of moulding us as individuals is precisely through His Body. There can be no real spiritual growth without relation to genuine Body Life. To illustrate, take one precious truth in regards to the coming together of the living stones of Christ, such as the biblical principle to make decisions on a consensus basis. Now if we understand the difference between consensus and vote of majority, we would appreciate how difficult it is to reach to an agreement as a whole. For consensus to have its God-desired results, we would have to lovingly give up and not to insist on our fleshly choices, save the Word of God. We would constantly need to die to ourselves, die to our opinions, die to our preferences, die to our pet doctrines... In short, to die as Christ died for us.
It is indeed a high calling, but the way of the cross is the only way to God's heart, and it is the basis of our fellowship with fellow brethren on this earth. Only by dying to ourselves in God's grace for the sake of others, can we truly enlarge ourselves. As Jesus said, "whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." This is the mystery of the Ekklesia: as one dies, it will bring forth life to many.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." ~ John 3:16
"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." ~ 1 John 3:16