The Quest for Community #4

I’m just gonna come out and say it. I think you’re too sensitive. You’re too easily offended. When it comes to receiving “wounds from a friend” you’re about as durable as a helium balloon. One little prick to your ego and you get totally deflated (usually with a lot of high-pitched whining).

But that’s no way to start a post on Christian community! Let me try again.

You’re too self-centred. You always seem to find a way to shift the conversation so it’s about you and if someone else somehow steals the attention or their idea gets chosen over yours, boy can you hold a grudge! If the Grudge Hold was an Olympic sport you’d bring home the gold for us every 4 years! You like to have things your way and have everyone tell you you’re great all the time.

OK I can’t seem to do this right, I’ll stop. Enough about me. I do actually want you to read the rest of this post after all. Did any of what I just said ring true for you? Yes? What are you doing about it? Really? That’s cool. Do you think the people in your community would agree?

Did you get upset at all? You may or may not know me personally but how would you feel if I actually said those things to your face? Did you automatically read them in a negative tone of voice? Go back and check. Are the words I used offensive in and of themselves or does your sensitive ego interpret them straight away as being harsh or mean?

Is there anyone in your life you think you could hear those things from and take them positively?

Here’s what I’m thinking. Christian community often fails to thrive because we refuse to be honest with each other beyond the point of discomfort. I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say I’m the chief of conflict avoidance. I like to get on with everybody and will never start a fight, an argument, a disagreement or anything resembling any of these without a REALLY good reason.

I don’t think I’m the only one. Churches are filled with really nice people. They are so nice! They always tell you you’ve done a good job. They always tell you when you look nice. They always tell you you’re amazing! All of these are great things…except for when they’re not true. I tend to find that us churchfolk will still tell people they’ve done a great job when they haven’t, still tell them they look nice when they don’t and still tell them they’re amazing when they’re choosing to live in mediocrity.

Now, I’m not saying we should be more harsh and less nice or that we have to fight each other over little things, or that we shouldn’t encourage each other out of where we are but I am saying I think a hallmark of Christian community is being able to tell each other the truth and receive it.

In Ephesians 4:25 Paul talks about this saying:

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Ephesians 4:25 (NIV)

It’s so easy for us to construct fake versions of ourselves. Our social media age actually encourages it. I mean your profile picture is literally the image of yourself you project to the world. What’s yours? Is it one that actually looks how you look most of the time? Or is it the best picture of you that you could find where you’re conforming to society’s standards of beauty? Are you trying to look daring, caring, adventurous or well-travelled in yours? Are you showing off your car, your nightlife, your boobs, your six-pack? Just had a quick look at my current Facebook profile picture and man do I look good!

Is this wrong? I think that depends on our attitude. If we think of social media as the real world then probably yes. If we adopt this same attitude of only showing our highlights to our real lives in the real world in real relationships, we have a problem. I think a lot of us do it and it’s a killer.

We do this because we want to be loved and accepted and these are desires God has put in us for sure. But this is not the way to go about getting those desires fulfilled. You see, when you construct a false version of yourself to present to the outside world to get them to like you, one of two things happens: Either a) you get rejected again and constantly have to keep reinventing yourself, trying to find the right formula to gain acceptance and lose yourself in the process; or b) the fake self gets accepted and loved but now acts a barrier between you and the love you’re wanting to receive. The fake self absorbs all of the love and acceptance and leaves you with none because you know it’s not real so you feel even more empty and destroy yourself trying to keep it going.

Our default setting as Christians is to love anyone and everyone but even in Christian community, in order for you to be loved and accepted, you have to be you. To do that you have to know what “youmeans. I intentionally didn’t say “know who you are” because that phrase is so common in our society, so uncomfortably vague and so loaded with a sense of eastern mysticism that it would lead you away from what I’m suggesting.

As I mentioned in the previous posts, we all long for a sense of identity but we tend to put our identity in the wrong things. We put it in our feelings, in our jobs, in our bank accounts, in our ethnic background, in our family history, in our hobbies and so on and so on.

We were never meant to find ourselves by going on a journey to find ourselves. We were always meant to find ourselves in the journey of seeking Him. God. Our Father and Creator. Don’t fall asleep on me again! This is BIG!!

When I find my identity in God and His purpose for me and my life, I’m set free from what the world thinks of me. I can still have regard for people’s thoughts and opinions but they don’t dictate my life or my sense of worth because they didn’t give me my life or my worth. He did. So they can’t take it away. If I give culture the authority to assign my value, they definitely will and I’ll have to tow the line and do exactly as they say or my value will drop.

Let me pause here and say that I don’t personally live in the fullness of this at all. Like, I’ve seen some improvements in my own life but I still get stung by rejection, I still yearn for acceptance in ways that I shouldn’t and I still put my identity in the wrong things and it takes me a while to realise. But I live in hope that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead me out of this. How are you doing with it? Hit me up in the comment section!

When I understand that my identity is in God, I can understand that yours is too and together we can lead each other towards God’s plan for our lives. Part of our purpose is to build a community that reflects the glory of Christ and the love of God to the rest of the world. In John 17, an absolutely dense chapter, Jesus prays that the unity of His followers would show the world that He is really the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. Go read it for yourself.

In order to grow into a community of unity and love, we need to be able to tell each other the truth.

Let’s look at that more closely in the next post.

Thanks for reading. Share with your friends and give me your thoughts below or in person. But only your nicest ones!

Just kidding.

TC

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