Good and Beautiful Community
In the adult Go Deeper class I teach, we will be going through Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith in the next month. It is book 3 of the Apprentice series. The first two books look at who God is and how we live. Book 3 focuses on us as the body of Christ. Below are some quotes from the introduction:
When we move into this area, it is easy to lose the main focus (the heart) and put all of the emphasis on the wrong thing (the activity itself).
Living faith is trust and confidence in God expressed in acts of love in our human relations and encounters with one another.
Personal piety without social action can also become self-righteous and insensitive and lead to burnout. The problems are, ironically, identical. Both tend to see their actions (service or prayer) as they way to earn the favor of God and humans...And both lead to burnout because they are not empowered by the Spirit, only by the flesh.
We are prone, he said, to put the emphasis on the action--serving, protesting, refusing to comply--but in fact the emphasis should first be on the heart or character.
Apprentices of Jesus are not part-time do-gooders. They live in continuous contact with kingdom of God and are constantly men and women in whom Christ dwells.
The essential idea here is that our identity should shape our behavior, but we live in a world where that is reversed: behavior determines identity in this world.
Even though I live in a fallen, broken world, I am also living under the strength, protection, and provision of the kingdom of God. It is ever-present and available now.
We can only love, forgive, serve, bless, give, encourage, unite and have patience because we know who we are and where we live. We can do these things because Messiah Jesus has done them. We are empowered by not only his example but his life and strength. We do what he did because we are learning how to be with him in order to become like him--all through the strength he provides.
Jesus, then, is both the model and the means of the compassion. I can live, love, serve, and accept others because Jesus does those things for me. I am giving what I have, not what I lack.
Finding success in our relationship
ps has a lot to do with our inner condition.
Our daily encounters with others are the arenas in which our relationship with God becomes incarnate.
I need to be reminded and I need a community around me to help me remember who and whose I am, and what that means for my daily life.