hard questions

in our american evangelical church today how much do we really believe in community? you recall the recent denouncing of the “heresy of individualism” by the Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal church’s presiding bishop.

a lot of the commentary by the evangelicals being denounced as heretics seemed to agree with at least some of the criticism. the american church is too individualistic. The american church has incorporated too much of our culture’s surrounding individualism into the church.

it is a problem that I have talked about before, see here and here for example.

it is pretty clear that from Acts 2:42 onward, the church relied on one another.

The writer of Hebrews made our need for each other in Christ explicit. Hebrews 3:13 says that we must exhort one another daily so that none of us is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. here it is in context:

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from ethe living God.  13 Butfexhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by gthe deceitfulness of sin.  14 For we have come to share in Christ, hif indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  15 As it is said,

b“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

do you see the vital importance that we should play in each other’s lives to prevent “falling away from the living God.”
Do we act like we take that responsibility seriously?
If we did take that responsibility seriously, what would it even look like?

Galatians 6:1 is similar.

6 Brothers,1 oif anyone is caught in any transgression, pyou who are spiritual should restore him in qa spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  2 rBear one another’s burdens, and sso fulfill tthe law of Christ.  3 For uif anyone thinks he is something, vwhen he is nothing, he deceives himself.  4 But let each one wtest his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.  5 For xeach will have to bear his own load.

we have a duty to recognize when one of our own has been “caught in a transgression” and work to restore the trapped person. All the while recognizing that we are susceptible to being caught in a transgression too. Doing this restoration is how we bear each other’s burdens and ultimately it is the mechanism that enables us to stand under our own load before our sovereign God.

What is implied here in Galatians 6 is that we are living in a close enough community that we will see that one of us has been caught in a sin so that we can intervene.

Such intervention is not pleasant. No one likes to be told by someone else that they are messing up. No one receives correction well. Our first impulse is to tell the intervenor to mind their own business and get out of my face. But Hebrews 3:12-15 and Galatians 6 are explicit in telling us that such intervention by our community in Christ is essential to our sanctification and even to our very salvation.

Not only do we have the negative obligation to correct sinfulness in one another, we also have a positive obligation to goad/spur/provoke one another on to good works in Christ.

It is our job to make sure that we are all doing everything that we need to be doing for the Kingdom of Heaven and that none of us are coasting. Hebrews 10:19-25.

19 pTherefore, brothers,3 since we have confidence to enter qthe holy places by the blood of Jesus,  20 by rthe new and living way that he opened for us through sthe curtain, that is, through his flesh,  21 and since we have ta great priest over the house of God,  22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts usprinkled clean vfrom an evil conscience and our bodies wwashed with pure water.  23 xLet us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for yhe who promised is faithful.  24 And zlet us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  25 anot neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ball the more as you see cthe Day drawing near.

as we individually come into the throne room of God, the most holy place, the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum, we draw nearer to the others who are crowding into the same space and we are obligated to “consider” (think about) ways to provoke one another to love better and do good works. And importantly we do this consideration and provoking as we continue to meet together on a regular basis.

Again, we can’t be on our own for very long. Community is vital to our healthy functioning spiritual lives and we have missed out on so much of what our faith has to offer us by ignoring this basic element of spiritual health.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: