The Apostles' Creed Part 8: The Cure for Loneliness
"I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints." —from the Apostles' Creed
When I was in college I faced one of my deepest times of loneliness. I had friends and I had a family. I had a roommate who was always around. I had people who called me and buddies to chat with online. I was even involved in a church. People were always around me. But what I didn't have was a community of people I was honest with about the things happening in my life. That's what I really needed. And that's why I believe in "the holy catholic church, the communion of saints." It offers us a cure for the kind of loneliness I experienced.
If you're like me, you might have been a little confused by the phrase, "holy catholic church." You might even be thinking: Why does the creed seem to focus on Catholics, just one group of Christian people? That's not what the creed writers meant. The word catholic here means "universal" or "all-embracing."
Wow. Think about that. The creed tells us the church is a place for all people who claim Christ as Lord and Savior. A place of acceptance, no matter who you are or what you are going through. It's a place where I can take care of my deep, gnawing feelings of loneliness. I love this part of the creed because it reminds me how much I need that kind of community, and it tells me I can find it in my church if I'm willing to give it a shot. Maybe if I had understood this better when I was in college, life would have been a little easier.
But the creed doesn't stop there. The next phrase is just as important: "the communion of saints." Now, this part isn't talking about a group of super-humanly good people, like Mother Teresa, sitting around eating little pieces of bread and drinking tiny cups of grape juice. When the creed says "communion of saints" it's talking about the fellowship of all Christians—even those who are often less than "saintly."
"Communion of saints" is all about a community of believers doing life together (see Hebrews 10:24). It's about helping each other get through times of hurt and loneliness. It's also about helping each other grow and mature in the Christian faith. Imagine a sports team that works well together. They encourage each other, they pick up teammates who have fallen, they bring out the best in each other. They ask for help and use each other's strengths. They work together to overcome the weaknesses of the team. That's kind of what it means to be part of the community of saints. Kind of. But better because Jesus—God's Son—is our coach.
Speaking of Coach Jesus, think about something he said: "If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples" (John 13:35, CEV). The creed echoes these words of Jesus. The all-embracing church should be a place where the love of God is lived out. But how is this possible when the church isn't always a place of acceptance and love? How do we build community when we all too often tear it down with our gossip, harsh words and insensitive remarks about people who are different than we are? I think the answer starts with you and me. Let's try our best to rid our own lives of stuff that pushes people away. Let's model the love of Christ. Then let's pray for fellow Christians, asking God to help them grow in his love.