Sunday, October 17, 2010

Could community be the key to radical?

The thing about community is that it is messy. People have baggage, and issues, and hurts, and pains, and the enemy feeds them lies at every turn they take. And people, in their hurt and brokenness, believe the lies, take them to heart, and live their lives based on them, rather than believing the Truth. You see, the Truth isn't shouted. It is gentle, unassuming, quiet. It removes any pretenses or excuses that we may carry with us. It frees us from all things, coming and going.

And so all of us, in our brokenness and bondage, fear each other. Either we are judging or being judged. Some may lash out to protect, believing that there is no one who will stand up for us. Other may hide away fearing the harshness of others. This is what we bring to relationships with each other, and until we discover the reality of grace, towards ourselves and others, communities remain a very safe arm's length away. We hide behind privacy and space, and personal preference. We gather with for Sunday service, maybe another night in the week for a small group, and then go on about our quiet, broken lives the rest of the week. Community happens on our terms. We choose when we want to engage and when we want to be alone. And many times fear can dictate these terms.

We read the teachings of Jesus to feed the poor, and so we send a check in to United Way.
We read that we are to care for the orphans, and so we send our check to Compassion.
We read that we are to visit the sick care for the widows, so we send our check to the foundation that will do this.

And our hands are clean, untarnished by the filthy reality of this life, not scathed by the broken mess of lives that comprise people in a fragile world so far from its Creator. And we can go on about our pristine lives knowing that we have done our part to make a difference.

But the thing about Jesus, was that He was a man of the people. He was a man of relationships. He was a man who would stand beside the adulteress and speak beautiful truths over her. He was a man who would speak life into the dead man before Him. He was a man who broke bread with the people as He taught of God's love and compassion. He demonstrated the compassion He spoke of. He lived it out. His life was covered in the dirt and filth of those whom He came to save. He walked the road with them.
And it was an outrage to the religious leaders. It was an abomination to be seen with the sinners with whom He dined. It was unspeakable to allow such women to touch Him.

It was completely radical. And those around Him took notice.

He was different and the gospel he taught was different than what the world knew.

He was inconvenienced by their sudden appearances. He was delayed by impromptu conversations. He was held up by the cry of someone's heart. And He was compassionate and ever gracious. He did not judge and held no record of sin.

But instead He scribbled something in the dirt which held the attention of the accusers. His gaze caught theirs as He leveled the field, "Let him without sin cast the first stone."

We are all broken, and we have been called to community, true bleed on each other community.

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he has need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Is this not what we have been called to? Is this not the example that was set for us? What the early Church did was completely radical, completely against the culture of their day, completely set apart. They pooled resources for the sake of living the vision set forth in Acts 1:8, the vision set for them by Christ himself, of being His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. They gave all that they had to ensure that those among them had what they needed to do what God had called them to do. And they broke bread together. This is mentioned more than once. Community was done on the terms of the community, not on the terms of the individual, when and where he felt like engaging.

Oh how my heart longs to see this come to fruition in our day, to see lives being saved from the hurt and brokenness of a world that does not know Truth, to see numbers added daily because the Truth of God's love and the demonstration of His people living it out is that compelling. Are we that compelling?

A group that is able to come together and get along? A group of the Christians that are able to come together and get along? Now that will get some attention.

There has to be more....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thinking with my mouth open...and fingers moving.

So we are stateside again. Sorry for not checking in sooner. It's been a strange month of readjusting and change. And while change can often times be very good, it remains to be hard. So we are adjusting and reentering a culture that is so different from what we experienced in Africa. And my mind is reeling with convictions and concerns and ideas of the imagination that will only lead me to trouble with many. And yet the gifting that the Spirit has bestowed upon me compels me to speak and share, yet my heart would crumble at the thought of disparaging the beautiful Bride. And so I wonder and pray of where to start, hoping that words of exhortation would move some to action of some form.

Jesus said to His followers, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. Those were his parting thoughts, laying out the vision and expectation of the Church. What is the Church to do from here on out?

Be His witnesses. Speak up, testify as to who Jesus is, give evidence of His power.

Be like Him.

The problem is, most of the time, this is reduced to just becoming better people, good people who live with superior standards of morals. They have attained righteousness because they don't drink alcohol, don't smoke, don't cuss, pay their bills on time, are responsible citizens, and are just generally much nicer people.

But I must confess that I have met a lot of really nice people who don't know a thing about Jesus, much less love Him. But they were really nice people and, should they come to confess Jesus, would fit very nicely into most churches that I know.

There are also many who I know who I would never guess are followers of Jesus until I see them at a Sunday morning church service with arms raised in emotional rapture. Where was that emotional rapture a few days ago as they looked down on the homeless person begging on the corner?

If we are called to be set apart, then why do we blend so well? Is my heart so set apart that others would know I am different, that I follow a different Way? Or do I try to blend, go with the flow, not make waves? Do I do what I do because this is how we've always done it so it must be the way it is done? But then, there is the Way, and it's different, radical, set apart, and I am drawn to it.

Here's one of the things that I love about Jesus: He put legs on words that He taught. He didn't just sit around, week after week, meeting with His small group to discuss the ins and outs of the teachings of the Prophets. He was a man of action. When he taught that we are to feed the hungry, He broke bread and fed 5,000. When He taught that we are visit the sick, He raised one from the dead. When He taught that we are to care for the orphans and widows, He reprimanded his disciples as He gathered the littles one unto Himself. When He taught that we are to messengers of compassion, and mercy, He stood up for the adulteress. When He taught that we are to give water to the thirsty, He quenched the thirst of a Samaritan woman who had searched for a lifetime. When He taught us to turn the other cheek, He donned a crown of thorns and laid bare His back for 40 lashes. When He taught us that it is better to give than it is to receive, He gave His life for the salvation of the world.

In the quiet places of my heart, there is a stirring that disturbs the hush. There is a rumble that begs for more. There is an uneasiness that is sure it has missed something.

Isn't there more to this life than going through the motions of Church and becoming a really nice person? What do we do with passages like Matthew 25, where are told very clearly that honoring Jesus means feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, providing housing for the stranger, and clothes for the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned? He did not mince words when He said, "Away from me! I never knew you."

Those words haunt me as I seek Him out.

You know me, right? Am I walking in obedience to you?

And so my heart wonders and imagines. What if we got crazy radical with this obedience to Him?

Oh, mercy, I'm just getting warmed up.