Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Alright, I'm going to need for you to retard your anger level a few notches and listen to me, can you do that?

Some quick thoughts on community, with regard to church that is.

"Community" is a bit of a buzz word in the church world and you would at times wonder how the church existed all these years without an emphasis on "authentic community."

That aside, it's been my experience and thinking that it's kind of a double-edged sword. People clamor for community, but then when the effects of community kick in, positive or negative, they would like a refund, or back away, or start looking for another community.

For example, when people get close enough to you to start helping you grow in sanctification by pointing out (self-)destructive behavior, fences come up with the tenderness.

Smaller churches can be appealing for the (seemingly) increased potential for community, but when those who love you in the community start to give you the business for sleeping through church, what do you do?

The irony is that God gives us community (i.e., our local church) to aid in our sanctification. Those people are there to help us see things we won't/can't see in ourselves. Those people will also give you the opportunity to forgive those who sin against you, to restore the relationship. Those people will give you the opportunity to be patient with a brother or sister who is well behind you on the road to holiness.

But being confronted with our shortcomings doesn't feel nice at all. Being wronged and overlooking it or seeking to fix it biblically aren't any fun.

So, what's the answer?

Practically, folks will often ...

1. Keep things to a very superficial level. Those who aren't close to you, don't know you, and really can't hurt you. This is the easiest, particularly in a larger church where you think nothing of it when you don't have many close relationships. There's the illusion of peace and a few tender people or troublemakers won't have the same potential for derailing the church's health, but this is truly only the appearance of intimate community.

2. Poison the community by harboring ill feelings toward one who you feel has wronged you, knowingly or not, it doesn't matter. Biblically, reconciliation is not optional. Paul stopped down in his letter to the Philippians to "waste" 2 verses so 2 ladies could reconcile (Phil 4:2-3).

3. Leave the church because you got tender with someone. It's easier to mail it in, assuming folks at the other church will be different. Of course, after a few churches one has to wonder if it's not the individual with the problem, not these many collections of people. I say that tongue-in-cheek, of course, because the group is no more perfect than the people of which it is comprised.

So, the easy route is to get tender and leave, hoping folks will call to ask why, so there can a laundry list revealed of insensitive people.

If we took a poll, I'm confident this would be in the top 3 reasons, if not THE top reason, as to why people leave a church. Pastors, can I get an "Amen"?

It doesn't have to be tenderness with a leader, though that helps accelerate the process.

Somebody didn't reach out enough to me. Somebody didn't invite me to his/her bit. Somebody wasn't receptive to my reaching out. Somebody hurt my feelings. Someone got tender with me over something I said or did that I don't think was any big deal. I was sick and missed 2 Sundays and nobody called or came by to ask about me. I slept through 2 Sundays because I was tired from being out too late the night before and someone asked me why I wasn't at church.

The worst is some combination of #2 & #3, whereby the root of bitterness grows so the poison permeates before the leaving, whereby more leave in the process.

How is God honored in any of that? How impressive is the Gospel that it makes superficial friends of God's people or that it makes friends of those who are alike?

What's impressive is a Gospel that saves from wrath and makes us pure. What's impressive is a Gospel that changes hearts so that we can love unlovely and we can love in spite of our differences and in spite of wronging and being wronged.

Authentic community is not easy, to create or maintain. And we also have to be careful what we wish for. We just might get it.

And in the process of REALLY getting to know other sinners saved by grace, you may find them hard to love ... and they may find you hard to love.

But that's when we get to practice the "one anothers" of Scripture:
  • Forgive one another - only possible when you've been wronged.
  • Be kind to one another - natural when they're kind to you, otherwise not so much.
  • Accept one another - this can only happen when the person doesn't meet your expectations and/or standards of behavior or knowledge.
  • Bear one another's burdens - you have your own, which is heavy enough, right?
  • Encourage one another - the discouraged can bring you down, or you can bring them up.
  • Honor one another - spotlighting another person certainly is contrary to our human nature.
  • Love one another - even loving those who don't deserve it, just as God loved the undeserving, us included.
  • Comfort one another - when something bad happens to another, you can say, "Be warm; be fed," or you can give them spiritual comfort.
  • Teach one another - nobody likes a know-it-all, so they may not listen.
  • Pray for one another - we all like to be prayed for, but few put the needs of others before their own, which is demonstrated in prayers for others (beyond, "God, please fix that guy!").
Once we REALLY get to know each other, we're much harder to love, but that's the nature of authentic Christian community, loving those who are hard to love. And that's the nature of a community that is impressive to the watching world.

For more on conflict resolution, check out The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, Ken Sande. (HT Kyle Kerby)


At 20 November, 2007 08:58, Anonymous Chris Brauns said...

Here you go. Amen.

Good thoughts.

At 20 November, 2007 09:11, Anonymous Anonymous said...

'love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength; love your neighbor as you love yourself.' sometimes we are too focused on the "cheklist" (do this, do that, one another this and that...etc..)and not enough on the One who actually "gives" the strength and the ability AND desire to do all those "things". seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these "things" shall be added to you. focus on what is "essential" HIM, and all those very little "non-essential" things will work themselves out.
Fall in love with "Jesus"

At 20 November, 2007 09:58, Blogger Jesus Girl said...

Anger Management

At 20 November, 2007 10:47, Blogger Lance said...

I'm befuddled at how adult children of abusive parents; or of siblings, with whom there is tension, would not even consider missing the holidays with them.

Yet those same people will abandon their heavenly family (The Church) at the slightest offense.

Not that either needs to be shirked, but it's telling, isn't it, how easily we'll excuse church hopping, but the thought of "family hopping" never enters our minds.

At 20 November, 2007 11:50, Blogger GUNNY said...

Chris ...
Thanks for the Amen, brother. I needed that.

JesusGirl ...

Anon ...
Amen to you! We were actually talking about Matthew 6:33 in-depth in my discipleship group last week. Kingdom first is so hard, but the only way to fly.

It puts our priorities in the right order:
God first
Others second
Our badselves third

If folks (self included) could keep that hierarchy in place, the church would be a much better place ... as would the world.

Lance ...
Amen to YOU also, brother.

For some reason we find our physical ties more binding than the spiritual ones. We offend and yell and get tender in the context of earthly family and yet we fight through it, particularly the for benefit of the family.

Yet, in church we're much less forgiving with our spiritual family.

Great reminder of the priority of the spiritual over the physical family.

Thanks for that reminder, even for me.

P.S. You're likely to get "comment of the week" merely because you were able to work in "befuddled" in your comment.

Major score!

At 20 November, 2007 11:56, Blogger Timothy said...

Hi Gunny
AS a pastor, "Amen!"

BTW, in Texas for the holidays. Loving it here.
Gig 'em Aggies! And fire Fran! :)

At 20 November, 2007 18:28, Anonymous meshelly said...

gunny said...It puts our priorities in the right order:
God first
Others second
Our badselves third

and i say: shouldn't it be
God first
our badselves second
others third?

not in a selfish way at all but...it says: love god.....and then love your neighbor as you love yourself. in a legalistic way we can love God..and love others...leaving ourselves last. but to "truly" love our neighbor we first must love ourselves BUT in order to love ourselves we FIRST must love God. i didn't mean to be anonymous..it was by mistake. surely i have given myself away without leaving a name ; - )

At 21 November, 2007 00:22, Blogger GUNNY said...

Well, the Bible never instructs us to self-love, it assumes it.

In other words, it's automatic. Even folks that allegedly don't love themselves really do, they just tend to act in self-preservation mode.

Philippians 2:3 commands us to actually consider others better than ourselves and in the context of that chapter not only is there to be priority put on others, but the example of Christ putting the needs of others before Himself in the ultimate act of sacrifice challenges us to prioritize others and their needs.

But this is the whole Christian ethic seen in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere. It's better to be wronged than to get what you think you deserve (particularly with regard to taking others to court - 1 Cor 6).

We are to give to those who ask (Matt 5:42) and if someone takes my sweater, I should give him my jacket as well (Matt 5:40). Loving myself first would mean I keep those things for me and if I had extra, then I would love my neighbor.

Love, of course, in Scripture is more than affections, but the actions that flow from them.

The problem is our propensity (in our fallenness) to be constantly looking out for #1.

The second commandment that is like the first is saying to elevate up other people to love them, not just ourselves.

So, I would have to disagree. Scripture never encourages self-love, but it assumes it because it's always there.

I don't have to teach my children to love themselves and seek their wants and desires, far from it. I have to teach them to put the needs of others before their own, loving as we have been loved.

Thanks for the intelligent comments, meshelly.

At 21 November, 2007 05:45, Blogger Lance said...


Methinks you may have heard too much modern psychologizing of Jesus' words, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."
As of late, we have been told that this means we must love ourselves first,and only then can we love our neighbor.
But a closer look will reveal the exact opposite: we have no trouble loving ourselves (Eph. 5:29). In fact, our greatest fleshly problem is not that we love ourselves too little but that we love ourselves too much.
What Jesus was saying was along the lines of, "in the same intense way you love yourself, love your neighbor."
Such indeed is only possible, not through self-love, but Spiritual power. Someone must equip us to battle the depraved self-love that characterizes our flesh.

At 21 November, 2007 07:32, Anonymous meshelly said...

i agree with most of what you said but i still hold to my second comment.

i most definately do not mean putting myself above others. if we are truly "filled" with God's love...then most assuredly we will be laying our lives down for others, considering their needs above our own.

and the "order" for me must be as i put or else my love for others will not be love at all.

not psycho "self-love" but love for myself in that i accept the Fathers forgiveness, His love, His approval....for if i don't readily accept these (and the many more wonderful gifts He bestows...) He so freely gives then dangerously I will look at others through the eyes that i see myself in finding fault in every little thing. but if I have His eyes for myself then His eyes will I have for others. and oh how needful is that!

intelligent? what a lofty word. you, my friend, are the one who is intelligent...i appreciate your "many" words. ; - )

At 21 November, 2007 12:15, Anonymous meshelly said...


no modern pycho for me... ; - )
maybe my other comment after you wrote will clear it up a bit. i do, however, peeve christianeeze sayings (ex. JOY = j-jesus,
o-others, y-yourself) although there is some truth in it, we must, in light of Scripture, see what He says (love god...love neighbor as self....)

respectfully i agree to disagree although truly i am open to have a change of heart should you have words to convince me otherwise.

without Christ, the love we have for ourselves is truly infected love...i can hardly see how we could even call it love. but the love of God in us....now that is love!

how about that? i am sure we are on the same page, mabye it is just my choice of words...i have ventured in to "intelligent land" and i am just simple folk. ; - )

At 21 November, 2007 15:06, Blogger Oilcan said...

We naturally have the order exactly opposite as it should be:

1. Me
2. Others
3. God

We need supernatural intervention to get the order correctly:

1. God
2. Others
3. Me

In regard to loving others or myself more, consider the example Jesus in the flesh personally provided for us: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13.

And this was done in obedience to the Father: Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done." Matthew 18:42

I submit that in His sacrifice, Jesus demonstrated that He put His love for others above His love for Himself.

At 21 November, 2007 18:58, Blogger GUNNY said...

I'm not familiar with J.O.Y., but I like it.


I would have to agree with Lance & Oil, but also challenge the obligation to love ourselves.

There is never an command to do so, but rather multiple commands to love others, with God being premier.

The other thing I wonder about is the ability to NOT love oneself. Can one really not love oneself?

One can unwisely act in such a way that is not beneficial for the person, that would either be intentionally loving someone/someOne else more or *thinking* that the action is in our best interests.

My contention is that Jesus not only assumes self-love but plays upon our own realization of our self-love to show what love for others would look like.

In other words, "You obviously know how to love yourselves, so give others at least as good treatment."

At 21 November, 2007 20:52, Anonymous meshelly said...

ok intelligent ones... i am surely in over my head and had to consult with the head over me, dear hubby. he, too, is an intelligent one. he actually understood my point (after much consultation...)(ha) although gave me correction in the way in which i made it.

you may have your order. I am in agreement with your order; God's order. i sincerely appreciate all the scriptures you made reference to. somewhere my point got lost..is it because i speak venus and you speak mars? (ha) i stand corrected in "trying" to use my "little" order to make my point.

i wonder...if you could but "cancel out" the order i tryed to use in which to make my point if then you could see my point more clearly?

let me stop speaking in riddles and just speak openly...why should we even "desire" to get "close" to someone who is just going to faultfind us to death, where is that love that is shed abroad in our hearts...that love that "covers a multitude of sins", that love that, if necessary, confronts a fault in such a loving way that it is taken joyfully, are we just so put out with how someone else is NOT doing it right that it hinders our ability to do the very thing that we are put out with that others are not doing, etc?

can i dare say, do we use our mind to love Him more than our heart? could i go back to my beginning comment:
'love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength; love your neighbor as you love yourself.' sometimes we are too focused on the "cheklist" (do this, do that, one another this and that...etc..)and not enough on the One who actually "gives" the strength and the ability AND desire to do all those "things". seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these "things" shall be added to you. focus on what is "essential" HIM, and all those very little "non-essential" things will work themselves out.
Fall in love with "Jesus"

a mystic i am...a theologian i am not. yet i do want to be theologically correct.

why do we church hop? we find no love. what be the answer? love.

and "in love" i end....


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