Wednesday, July 3, 2013
There's the story of the guy with the big ol' handle-bar moustache who ate a block of stinky blue cheese. Some of it got lodged in his 'stache. So he walked around the house sniffing and asking who had left the stinky cheese lying around. What he was smelling was the cheese lodged in his big ol' stache.
Often, being a part of of a Christian community is encouraging and compelling.
There've been countless ways in which God has expressed His love to me through community.
Community is God's love with skin on. But there are times when being in Christian community hurts, makes us feel awkward or even repels us. It can stink like stinky cheese! At those times we need to check to see whether we have some stinky cheese on us rather than looking at everyone else to find the problem.
We were created for community. When God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it, He said that it was good. When he created Adam he is that it was very good. The first time we hear God say that something is not good, it's because Adam is alone. It is not good for man to be alone. So God created Eve; for friendship, for partnership, for pleasure, to bear children and to more fully bear the image of God. It required community to reflect the image of the Tri-Une God, the perfect community.
As Ecclesiastes 4 says, Two are better than one...and a chord of three strands is not easily broken.
But what kills God's life in our communities?
Solomon, after describing the ideal community, goes on to describe 4 Community Killers in Ecclesiastes 4.
a. Envy. Through envy of his neighbor the fool toils at his work. When we are unable to rejoice with those who rejoice because they are more popular, more wealthy, better looking, or have more profile than us, we are wrestling with envy. Most of the wars between us are because of the wars of envy within us. Jesus can empower us to take pride in our humble position, and empty ourselves for others instead of living in envy towards them.
b. Self-centerdeness. The fool folds his hands and eats his own flesh. Many of us expect community to be laid on for us. We are waiting to be served, loved, mentored or given ministry opportunity. It is consumer-Christianity at its worst. CS Lewis described hell as a table laden with fine food where people's arms were in splints so they could only their neighbors. But they refused to feed their achother, because they were self-centered, so they starved. I have found that as we serve and love others we get fed and loved ourselves.
c. Work. Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of striving. When we get too busy to waste time with people, community becomes distant and difficult. The Sabbath is a gift for us to rest from our toil and our play, and prioritize worship, eating and resting with our family and the people of God.
d. Refusal to take advice. Better is a wise and a poor youth than a rich and foolish king who cannot take advice. The gift of community in helping us to see our blind spots and giving us counsel in decision-making, is profound . Paul the Apostle knew how to hear from God, yet he travelled to Jerusalem to hear from some leaders to check that he wasn't running his race in vain. Priscilla and Aquila showed Apollos a more adequate way. We may have a good grasp of God's ways but we never have the whole picture alone.
So which Community Killer am I guilty of?
Repentance and turning to the God of grace empowers me to own the problem and change something that I can control, entrusting Him with others people's community killers that I cannot control.
It empowers me to remove the stinky cheese from my ol' handle-bar stache.
Did I hear someone say cheese?