For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4-5 NASB)
When I was in high school, my best friend Rachel was a member of a seemingly flawless youth group. The kids played board games together on New Year’s Eve; in the summer, they batted volleyballs and ate hot dogs in the town park. They were the best of friends—not just in church but also in school and on Saturdays. Many of them had shared first kisses; some of them exchanged rings. To an outsider, their friendships looked effortless. The fact that they all loved Jesus, spending time competing in Bible competitions and singing praises over a strummed guitar, seemed a lucky coincidence.
When I came to Harvard, I imagined that my time in HCFA (Harvard College Faith and Action), one of Harvard’s Christian fellowships, would be just like Rachel’s time in that youth group, if not better. Here I would find a pack of best friends, buddies that also just-so-happened to share my belief in Father, Son, and Spirit. I would hardly be able to select my roommates from among them—there would be so many excellent choices! I would want to spend every weekend watching films or painting nails or giggling over stories with my pals before walking to church on Sunday morning. I would barely be able to contain my excitement for brunch banter afterwards.
But that’s not how it went.
Aside from one of my roommates, and my boyfriend, and a few other choice friends, HCFA, the church, the body of Christ, has functioned much the same way any other group of intricately diverse and variably flawed humans—my choir, my dorm, my family—would. There are some people I click with instantly. There are some people I am friendly with but would probably never see of my own accord on a Friday night. There are some people that annoy me. There are some people that I annoy. There are disagreements. Sometimes, I would rather paint nails or brunch with other friends than hang out with my church people.
So here’s my first point: the people you go to church with won’t immediately and instantly and easily be your best friends. God doesn’t call us because we have the same senses of humor, or the same Myers-Briggs profiles, or the same brunch preferences. He calls us because we each have unique gifts, especial functions in furthering His kingdom. With those personal strengths come individualized sins and weaknesses; that’s part of the package. We’re bound to annoy each other. We’re also bound to love each other, and in doing so, to honor Christ.
So then comes my second point: keep digging into the church anyway—even when you’re frustrated, even when it’s easier to disengage. Go to your Bible courses and worship nights and social events; eat the ice cream and chicken, sign up for the service opportunities. Get coffee with the person you wouldn’t necessarily be drawn to if not for your mutual adoration of the Most High. Invest when it isn’t easy.
Because the thing that we have in common—a love of Christ—while maybe not apparent at first or second meeting, is really the most important common denominator of all. It’s the thing we’re supposed to leave all other earthly ties in the dust for. Your fellow Christians may not necessarily become natural best friends. They will most certainly be your brothers and sisters. You didn’t choose them; they were chosen for you. They’ll never leave you. Their love isn’t conditional on what SNL skits you like or how you like your eggs or whether you make time for that spring break trip. It is unconditional; it flows from a Savior. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Kate Massinger ‘16 is an English concentrator in Kirkland House. Next fall, she’ll begin an MFA program in Creative Nonfiction at Columbia University.