How to Grow in Your Faith-Community

COMMUNITY

There is a place between “us and them” and “we”. As I’m writing this, the news of riots in Charlottesville play out and three people have died. People are divided on issues of race, but to be honest, our entire race is one of division on multiple fronts. But we were never intended to live among ourselves in such a way.

God is relational. I tell people this quite a bit. He created man because He wanted someone else to spend time with. He created more than one so they could experience friendship with one another. God wasn’t lonely when He did so, for within the Trinity themself is three individuals in constant communion with one another. God knows relationships are good for us in order to develop character, to focus on oneself less and another more, and the benefits of having relationships are to spend time doing something enjoyable. Relationships are the moment two souls touch in a way the naked eye cannot yet see.

After the Fall, everything became twisted, and the very people we were designed to co-mingle with we began to hurt one another. The free will we have now is something we use against one another.

I’ll stop right here and tell you I have hurt others; with my words, by my actions, through hidden motives, and yes, I have lied to others. I say this in order to be clear I am no better than anyone here and I am a paradox of misgivings, of ideals I wish to strive towards, but find myself failing quite often.

Even though I am part of the human race, while watching the news and seeing the young girl who was run over with a car in Charlottesville has died, I find myself saddened this news is more prevalent than the good stories which scarcely run across the news these days.

Mankind is a mess. 

Of all the passions the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet very bad do very bad things.- C.S. Lewis

It is easy to see all which is wrong with the world. Racism, greed, and class are symptoms of a not so subtle undercurrent called fear. Fear is what makes good men flee from their moral obligations They are more prone to knee-jerk reactions to things which are unfamiliar. I could go on and on about what is wrong with the world, but then I would lose the opportunity to point out what could be, and hope is more my style.

Martin Luther King, Jr said, “Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.” I agree. It takes considerable determination to stand up to those determined to hate you. But this is the one thing Jesus asked those who believe Him to do.  Maybe we can begin by pulling others up in order to love them?

If there is one thing I’m passionate about more than others it is this: bringing people together. We do things better while we are together than when we are alone. Lately, the news shows we are capable of much evil when in mass groups, but what if we did things in a better way?

We can help those who need it more effectively. 

There are homeless people throughout the world and despite most of the things people associate with them is they are there by their own choosing. It’s not necessarily true. Some are there because life landed a series of devastating blows. Sometimes it is because people suffer mental disorders which go untreated. Where I live there are people who are dedicated to helping those who are going through this, but there is still a lack of volunteers who dedicate their time helping those who need it.

There are foster children who are passed around and never land a home with people who care for them. If our communities started focusing on where they can contribute there would be fewer stories of bad childhoods for those who grew up in them.

Imagine the world where people look for creative solutions to problems around them. This comes through spending time with others who challenge themselves by learning and working together towards a common goal. If people dedicated as much time helping one another rather than offering up opinions it would be a better place for all of us, but mostly what happens in today’s world is finger-pointing in who is responsible to help change the world. What the world needs less of is excuses and more examples of people who show up in other’s brokenness by making an impact in their lives.

Miracles rarely happen because our focus is too far. We can be a miracle within our own community. It starts with your neighbor. Yes, you know, the person who lives next to you? That’s right, your own neighbors. When we look for a government, a church, or someone else to resolve the issues it becomes a problem. The solution is within each of us. One of the ways the world begins to change for the better is when each of us starts to take on the responsibility of becoming catalysts within our own communities. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. Start small and see where it leads.

Go have a cup of coffee with someone and get to know their story, be the ear they need. Provide a meal for a family who needs one. Mow your neighbor’s yard because you can. Love those around you. No, you can’t do everything for everyone, but you can do something for someone. If you ever want to have more friends, become one.

What if we stopped seeing protests and more people rally around truly great things? Imagine the world where people focus less on statues being torn down and more on people building each other up instead. How great would that be? What if we celebrated celebrities less and more on firefighters and medical staffs who do an outstanding job to put themselves in harm’s way?

What if people decided to focus on the good in others and rallied outside of businesses, non-profits, and churches where they are doing good things for others holding signs that said, “You got to check them out. They love people!” We can protests the bad in the world by showing up for the good instead.

All Life is Precious

I know you probably think I’m nuts and these are ideals. They aren’t. Jesus was hinting the kingdom of heaven is within you, but we choose whether we let it in. Love is a choice, but it is also an ability.

There are two great commandments: love God and love people. When we focus on the two, then we know which are the greatest sins: hate God and hate people. When I don’t know what to do, I ask myself the question: Is this really loving the person well? By loving others well and often I’m also loving God in the process because by doing so I am loving someone He created. That’s it!

The one thing on this planet which is eternal here is the people you see every day. That’s a miracle! How you treat them says nothing about them, but everything about you. Are you kind? Are you loving? If you are waiting for them to be so first, then I hate to break it to you: You are capable of loving them anyway. You have to choose to be love. There is no other way. If you wait on others to be something else, you may waste a life, but when you love them no matter what you might change another’s life, but you will always change your own life when you choose to be loving.

Recently, my son asked me if this is easy for me to do. It’s not. But I’ve seen incredible things happen when I’ve tried. I made friends out of people who were difficult to be around. Seldom is a person ever too far gone. Most are damaged and after getting to know their story I realize life hit them hard. Of course, there are those who will refuse to be loved. But it will not change how I will view them.

In our culture, we have moved from being in deep community. We have locks on our doors and our hearts. People are afraid of people. It will take considerable time to remedy this. One way to change community is by loving our neighbors well, sharing our lives, and living like Jesus did. What He did 2000 years ago we are still talking about. He loved everyone.

All life is precious. When we treat one another as gifts rather than inconveniences a whole new world opens up. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a great dream, one in which he died for. This is not very different in what Jesus did for us when He died for something greater too.

Since we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses then we know heaven is leaning over just hoping we find the courage and start living this out. With all the news in the world showing the depravity of mankind, why not start in our own neighborhoods by loving those around us a little better? Are they different from you? That’s great! Do they have problems? Of course, they do. Is your life perfect? No.

When we live in community as Jesus wants us to we begin to grow even better than before. We are not designed to live this life alone but within a community. People can help shape us and challenge us, perhaps even make us into better versions of ourselves. When we include God in our relationships miracles begin to occur.

A Christian community should do as Jesus did: propose and not impose. Its attraction must lie in the radiance cast by the love of brothers.-Jean Vanier

It takes considerable work to build, create, and plan for things which will help to cultivate deepened relationships. Bridge builders offer others the ability to cross over from where they are in order to connect. Bridge burners will always isolate themselves by not allowing others to see them at their most vulnerable. Be a bridge builder, not a bridge burner.

If we want to change the news we see in the world we must begin in our own neighborhoods, places of work, our own communities by choosing to love. Love silences hate because it has no answer for the light it brings.

In a dark world, we can be cities on many hills offering up community: a place to belong and be loved.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

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