One star does not illumine the night sky; it takes millions of stars to do that. In the same way the spiritual life in Christ is not just about me, it takes a community of followers of Jesus to show His light to the world. All of creation is the story of that interconnectedness, be it a community, a tribe, a herd both within a species and among species; it is the very nature of what God created. And so, we have to think about the whole family of mankind when we think about our own ties to God. It is only among a whole group of followers that we achieve our own highest destiny, when our works as a servant of God are added to those of all the other servants of God that we really count. I am, you are, just a small portion of what God needs to show to the world His providence, His caring, His love and His forgiveness.
That is why we gather in churches and in charities—to magnify our own contributions as followers of Jesus. Alone we are like a lone pebble on the beach. Together we can light up our own small corner of the earth. And with all the followers of Jesus across the world, we can really make an impact. So, the only questions we need to ask ourselves are these: Am I truly a follower of Jesus? Does my life show that I do much more than just believe in Jesus and all that He taught? And, does my life show the healing He has done in me and the realization of my purpose, His purpose for me in my life?
What if I am doing a lot of good works, but my attitudes are resentful and negative? What if I read the Bible every day and know it well and I still see enemies among the people I meet? What if I can’t love myself, much less anyone else—that I am more prone to judgment than to love?
The proof of our following Jesus lies more in our attitudes and unconscious biases than in what we are doing; those biases are always reflected in what we do. If we are truly following Jesus, then we are often laying on the altar some resistance of ours, some impatience, some sinful part of our nature—anything that would come between us and God, between us and other people. And we notice the healing as it comes to us from God in a relaxation of all the stresses that have troubled our lives, in the changes in our attitudes towards people who are different from us, in our willingness to listen to the Indwelling Spirit of God and all His suggestions for us. And in our obedience to those suggestions, as well as to the Ten Commandments and the Spirit of the Law.
The main thing we notice over time is how we are always growing in our obedience and willingness, in our understanding of God’s word and in what our lives are to be all about. Following Jesus means we have entered a school in which we learn how to love God, ourselves and others. I believe that the learning lasts until the day we die, releasing old stuff that we no longer need and learning the new stuff that we will need right now. We are to become like Jesus as we grow in our devotion to Him; that is the purpose of following Him in all that we do.
And that brings us back to the concept of community and interdependence. The one epiphany that I had when I was writing the book about Exodus was that it was not about any one person’s life dedicated to God, but about the whole community of Israelites. And that it is not about my faith, but about how I am in the community of followers of Jesus. It is our role to join the whole human race as equals, as beloved by God, as made in His image and to stand in solidarity as one who can love and be a part of that community of the beloved of God.
One of the clear lessons of this sheltering-at-home stage of the coronavirus to me is through the loss of daily contact with fellow workers, friends and family who don’t live with us. We are meant to be together, to work together, to play together, to worship together. Last Saturday we celebrated the woman who is in charge of congregational care in our church, a seminary student, who is now graduating from seminary. This summer she will be ordained and take the position of Associate Pastor of our church here in Charlotte. So last Saturday, the head pastor of our church arranged a drive-by celebration for her at her home. Easily 30 cars met at a nearby middle school and then drove in a caravan to her house. She was outside as each car’s driver drove by, said congratulations and then left the cul-de-sac where she lived and waved and talked to each of the other drivers in line. It was a joy-filled reunion, over-the-top joy, as we actually saw the other members of our church! It’s been so long and we are so isolated from each other, that nothing could contain that joy.
That is the blessing of community and the togetherness that we are so lacking today in our isolation. May go back to valuing our neighbors in our towns and cities and our friends, our fellow citizens and even the whole community of human beings in this world, all made in God’s image, all different and yet together. May that be the legacy of the coronavirus!
Questions to ponder over the week: How much am I missing the daily in person interactions with communities at work, with family, with friends, neighbors and more? How important is being a part of a community to me? Do I see myself as part of this neighborhood, this group, this country, this family of mankind? How broadly do I identify with mankind? Do I see others as children of God?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who see every other person as a child of God and treat him or her as such. May we be generous, loving, patient and kind to all. May we wee the face of Christ in every individual.
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