Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On Community

“Community” brings to my mind an image of people gathered at the Memorial Day celebration in a small town. Diverse people who all know each other. They are all there to watch their kids march in the parade, to show their grandkids the fire trucks, to listen to the speeches and remember the soldiers who didn’t come back. As they wait they talk about things that concern them all – the price of gas, the school levy, the business that failed, the new business that’s starting up, the latest scandal, the newest baby.

Community makes me think of the noun commune, of the verb commune and of "communion." In every case people have something in common. They have given up some of themselves and have shared what they had with the others. In community, people share food, recipes, help, advice, knowledge or any number of other things, including childcare and chicken pox.

Community has dried up in many places in the past 50 or 60 years. People wall themselves in and jealously guard their privacy and their stuff. They don’t know the names of their neighbors. Everyone is a stranger. Every stranger is viewed with suspicion and fear. People don’t share things in common. There is no common ground, no common cause and no common grace.

Real community is always good because it is based on love. Love your neighbor as yourself. Care for him as you would want him to care for you. Share, build up, help out, look after and care about the other person. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

All of these are biblical values stemming from Divine commandments. In a secularized world of naturalism, materialism and Darwinism, community is crippled. Witness the savagery and disparity in Socialism, Communism, and Free Market Capitalism. As economic systems they all work to some degree – but as community they all fail because there is no cause bigger than an individual. We are denizens of the jungle where the fittest survive by making the weak a prey. It’s a dog eat dog world.

In this world we are taught that we have absolute autonomy. The world is all about the individual. I don’t have to answer to any god and all the people around me are competitors for the world’s scarce resources. Selfishness, violence, apathy, hopelessness and lawsuits are the order of the day. Buy good locks and a gun. Don’t get involved.

When disaster strikes, people still band together as a community. There are communities of people helping others who have the same addictions, disabilities or illnesses. There are communities of colleagues in schools and workplaces. There are even neighborhood communities. It is a natural thing – built into our consciences.

From my perspective, the very best place for community is the Church. For one thing, the values that promote real community are biblical. For another, in a local church you find a group of people who have more in common than the average neighbors – they have the same world-view and religious beliefs. Finally, the church is built on communion – a fellowship of God with people and people with each other because of what God has done for them.
(1John 1:3-7) "that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
(This was originally written for Frank Mills in response to his inquiry, "What does community mean to you?" and published on his Urban Paradoxes web site.)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Loyalty to Christ

What is the standard for our loyalty to Christ?

We all have multiple roles and relationships. We are sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, employees and employers, citizens, neighbors, friends. We may belong to clubs and councils and boards of directors.

Where does our relationship to Christ factor into our lives?

Too often Christ comes far down the list in our affections. We are more concerned about what other people think or expect than we are about Christ. We are more concerned about offending other people than we are about offending Christ. We will compromise our commitment to Christ to make commitments to other people.

If this is true, and every time it is true, we deny Christ His place as Lord of our lives and we make those other people into our god. Other organizations and other activities take the place of worshipping Jesus as God and Savior. Other loyalties trump our loyalty to Christ.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)
Love Jesus with all you have! Not just with what's left over.

For true followers of Jesus there must be no division of loyalty! Be loyal to Christ. Let your love for others flow out of your love for Christ. Be a devoted husband because you are devoted to Christ. Be a devoted mother because you are devoted to Christ. Be a good citizen because you are a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Be a great employee because you are a devoted servant of Jesus Christ.

Don't compromise! Jesus said, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." There is no compromise in that formula! Give other people their proper place in your life - but don't steal time and loyalty from Christ.

What does God think? Might Jesus be offended by the choices we make and the priorities we set? Let us strive to please Christ and bring Him glory in everything we do and say.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Be A Hero Today!

You don't need superpowers to be a hero. All you need is an opportunity to go out of your way to do something nice for someone else.

If you only do what comes easily to you and what is the most convenient to you, you are not a hero. If you do something difficult that benefits you more than anybody else, you are not a hero.

But if you will go out of your way to do something kind, thoughtful, and helpful for someone... that person will see you as a hero.

Since you are going out of your way to serve - your service will be above and beyond the call of duty. It will be a pleasant surprise. It will be a cause of rejoicing. It will bring a smile and maybe a tear. It will bring someone a sense of relief.

So go ahead and be a hero. Do something nice that you don't have to do. Think of people that you can bless by your thoughtfulness.

Be a hero today!