Three ways to live

Which is your way?

Christian community – Part 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 2:16 am on Sunday, April 6, 2008

This is part 3 of the notes on Christian community. Here are parts 1 and 2.

Motivation

Maintaining a community, as described in my previous post, is a difficult thing to do. It’s likely to result in hurt, pain, insecurity, etc. Where do we get the power to continue?

There are, of course, past (gratitude toward what Jesus has done) and future (eternal life) aspects. The world in its present form is passing away. All created things will be shaken of, no matter how sturdy or pleasant they look now. You may have a life that is full of conveniences and pleasures, but the end is the same for all – death. God offers us a new life, a new name, which is better than any name that we can have now. Those who are poor now will be rich, those who morn will be comforted, those who hunger will be filled. So we have a future hope which provides motivation for everything that we do and the assurance now by what Jesus has done.

But I think another important motivation for building a community is to understand that it is one of the primary way to worship God. A big part of both Old and New Testament worship was about community building. See bold highlights below.

Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)
6 With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Isaiah 1:11-17 (NIV)

11 “The multitude of your sacrifices—
what are they to me?” says the Lord.
“I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
I have no pleasure
in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even if you offer many prayers,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood;
16 wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
17 learn to do right!
Seek justice,
encourage the oppressed
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
plead the case of the widow.

Isaiah 58:2-7 (NIV)

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Mark 12:33 (NIV)

33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

See also Hebrews 13 and Romans 12.

I used to think that these verses imply that God asks us to take care of other people as a way to please him. Yet now I think this doesn’t do justice to the true meaning of these verses. By showing kindness to others we do not only reflect God’s glory and please him, we build community. 
This understanding helps resolve many issues with “doing good for other people”. Should we give money to a stranger on the street? Should we offer a ride to a friend in church? Should we attend a church camp even despite being busy at work? Next time you have these (or similar) questions, try putting them through the lens of how they contribute to community building. 

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