- "Diversity... that very well could be the understatement of the ages! The truth is - the body of Christ is not only the complete expression of diversity, but it also has many levels of faith, maturity, and spiritual understanding… and those levels are the part that we absolutely must see! "
Love Beyond Love
That community is here with us – and it is God’s great and gracious gift to us. For us it is called Reunion, but without Christ and His love, it does not matter what we call it. Here we are a home place - open and welcome to the un-churched, over-churched and anti-churched. This community is at the point in our journey where we are praying that God is not only building for us – but beyond us; Reunion beyond Reunion, love beyond love… a home place for all. We pray for a spiritual home place that meets the needs of both our own families and the needs of those extended relationships… to the ones beyond Reunion that we might not necessarily have chosen for ourselves. We are looking for a spiritual home place where the “saved can be saved” and a place where those who are described as the “unsaved” are welcomed and can become connected to Christ through the loving relationships of His people.
So then, what would a home place such as this look like?
That is a good question and it is one that you as part of this community must also ask yourself. For me, at least, the answer comes in part from a question that once again goes beyond us here at Reunion Church.
“What does the body of Christ look like”?
I say it looks diverse – (check out Romans 12:5).
"Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other."
Diversity... that very well could be the understatement of the ages! The truth is - the body of Christ is not only the complete expression of diversity, but it also has many levels of faith, maturity, and spiritual understanding… and those levels are the part that we absolutely must see! Honestly (in this context), when I close my eyes the first picture I see is the one of my own lacking and struggles. But as I take my eyes and attention off myself and look out further (beyond me) I can see that there are good people of all kinds who identify themselves as Christians or at the very least people who believe in God as the divine Creator. There are those who are steady, determined, and strong - and those that are unsteady, uncertain, and weak. I see Christians/believers who are very knowledgeable and mature in their faith - while others who lack both knowledge and maturity in their faith. I see Christians who struggle with lifelong addictions – and others who live free from their addictions but not from the struggle. Some Christians flounder in relationships with others - and for some their greatest difficulty is just relating to themselves. I see Christians that have a hard time with telling the truth - while others are motivated only with finding the truth. There are Christians who must fight everyday against the impulses of their flesh - while others seem controlled and victorious. There are Christians (believe it or not) who drink, swear, and smoke. There are Christians who battle with sickness, depression, sexual addiction, drug addiction, deep rejection, insecurities, anger, and varieties of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. There are also many Christians whose greatest struggles are internal and hidden from us - we might never see them. Does that make them more spiritual, a better Christian, or more desirable to us than the ones whose external habits and struggles we can see? As we learn to love and be loved like Jesus we should be mature enough to see that there are Christians who are over-comers and then those who at times are just plain overcome.
“Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.”
- (1 Thessalonians 5:14)
We need to rejoice and celebrate with and learn from those wonderful Christians whose disciplined lifestyles move and inspire us - but we must also learn how to celebrate and rejoice with the ones less disciplined, less victorious; but no less loved by Jesus.
Unfortunately there are also Christians who through a religious and pious spirit have come to believe that any person who claims to be a Christian but does not live in the way that they personally see fit are simply not Christians at all. But according to the bible that thinking is not true (Romans 14:1-4, 15:1-2).
"Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don't argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it's all right to eat anything. But another believer with a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who feel free to eat anything must not look down on those who don't. And those who don't eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn someone else's servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him judge whether they are right or wrong. And with the Lord's help, they will do what is right and will receive his approval. In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. You should each be fully convinced that whichever day you choose is acceptable. Those who worship the Lord on a special day do it to honor him. Those who eat any kind of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who refuse to eat certain foods also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. For we don't live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it's to honor the Lord. And if we die, it's to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and rose again for this very purpose—to be Lord both of the living and of the dead. So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God."
- (Romans 14:1-11)
In fact the bible says anyone who judges and condemns out of pride and arrogance will be judged and condemned in the same way - plain and simple. Sadly some (what I call) Phari-typical Christians actually believe they are bearing fruit and exercising their spiritual gift when they can successfully identify and publicly voice the faults, failures, and sins of others. According to Jesus they are only bearing poisonous fruit, and have completely missed the opportunity to think or love like Him. It is a lesson to be learned; too often it is our religious arrogance working – when grace and humility is most needed!
The point of all of this is not endless. Just a little humility would allow us to see that there are circumstances and behaviors in us all that God has been patiently waiting for a long time to change. There are Christians of all kinds at various places in the journey of faith. Sure, it is one thing to “believe in Jesus” and it is another to “follow Jesus”, and they are not always the same. But it is the endless grace and daily love of Jesus that moves us all along the path of becoming his disciples - and not the judgment and condemnation of man.
So, who are the people and where is the place that He will use for that change to take place?
We are the people – and we are the place!
Everyday both you and I should call out to God… "Let this love be in us, and in our community… Please God let it be in us." And then whatever physical place He gives us to call home can reflect His attitude and heart of love for people.
With this understanding we can be the home and a place of belonging for people just like the ones Jesus loved and walked with when He was on earth as a man. It is important for pastors, teachers, ministry leaders, and family leaders to talk often about how Jesus loved them all, and how He spoke to them all, making sure they all knew that there was a place for them to love and be loved - a place for them to grow and to change the disappointments of the life they knew. When He said to them, “come to Me” He included the ones beyond the church (un-churched, anti-churched, and over-churched); the strong and the weak, the over-comers and the over-come, the obstacles and the enablers, the faithful and unfaithful, the simple and the complex. Isn’t it crazy that all these years later many Christians and many churches still wrestle with which ones they should love and let love, or who they should make a place for within the community of Christ?
Certainly after all the things we have been through together at Reunion; me walking with you - and you walking with me… would we, should we, dare we waste precious time with something so opposed to the heart and command of Jesus?
Shouldn’t our home (the community of faith - the body of Christ) indeed be a place for all those that Jesus calls to it?
When wrestling with questions such as these I am quickly reminded of the Proverb, “Unless the Lord builds the house those that labor on it unfortunately are laboring in vain.” We do not want our labor to be worthless. The truth is that from all the diverse types of people we have mentioned (including ourselves), we each needs a place of covering (a home) s can recover and re-direct (love and care) from the causes and effects of sin, and the consequences of our thoughts, words, and our deeds. We all need a place to grow up in Christ. We need a physical and a spiritual home that directly reflects the personality and needs of a caring community. A place where open and strong relationships can be formed and can flourish. Our home should be the place where all types of people and families of all age groups can love and be loved; a place as we said to grow and change, and a place where we all can experience life together in Christ. That is as they say “the big picture.” My question to you is, “What do you see in that picture”?