Creators of Community

Description

The solace of sweet surrender and self-denial in Christ is the key to biblical community; the more we lose ourselves, the more we become like Christ and embrace servanthood.

The psychologist Alfred Adler noted, “It will appear in the end that we have no problems in our lives but social problems; and those problems can be solved only if we are interested in others.” William James similarly exhorted his readers to give themselves to “the higher vision of the inner significance of people.” Scripture, however, teaches us that we cannot fully do these things without a new heart in Christ.

Perhaps Thomas Merton most succinctly summarized the human condition in these words: “We are not at peace with each other because we are not at peace with ourselves. And we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” But “having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), and this new condition makes it possible for us to be at peace with ourselves and with each other.

The solace of sweet surrender and self-denial in Christ is the key to biblical community. As we make our dwelling place in Jesus, we discover the truth of Augustine’s words: “Lord, Your best servants are those who wish to shape their life on Your answers rather than shape Your answers on their wishes.” When we lose our lives in Christ, we are gradually transformed from being self-absorbed to being “ex-centrics” who reach out to others. As this happens, we realize that the statement, “This church doesn’t feed me” is not necessarily a good reason for leaving. It may be that we have been called into such a community to feed others.

True community in Christ is not created by attempts to make it happen; instead, it is a byproduct of other-centeredness, and this, in turn, is a byproduct of finding our lives by losing them for Jesus’ sake (Matthew 16:25).

If the leading enemy of corporate spirituality is selfishness, the leading contributor to community is the servant-hood that issues out of self-denial. While the world values celebrities, the Word values servants. When Jesus became a servant to His disciples by kneeling down with a towel and a basin (John 13:3-17), He showed that greatness in the kingdom of God does not look like greatness in the eyes of the world. To be like God, we must become conformed to His Son. “God is Christ-like, and in Him there is no un-Christlikeness at all” (Michael Ramsey’s adaptation of 1 John 1:5).

After we are converted to Christ, we must be converted to His cross. The conversion to the cross is an ongoing process that involves a series of deaths: death to experiencing life on our own terms, death to our quest for comfort and happiness, death to our own dreams, and death to autonomy and independence.

Death is the only way to resurrection, and none of these deaths is bigger than God. In the New Testament, a cruciform view of the spiritual life is neither extraneous nor optional. There it is normative for the disciple to take the Calvary Road (see François Fénelon’s  Christian Perfection, Roy Hession’s  The Calvary Road, and John White’s The Cost of Commitment).

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