September 13, 2017
Weekly Reflection – No Solo Christians!
There are no solo Christians! Few forces of nature capture our attention and humanity like that of a hurricane or typhoon. The experience elicits the best in people where boat-driving volunteers rescue stranded citizens. Likewise, trailer towing strangers shower food, water, and clothing on the survivors. Previously little known neighbors show up to man shelters. Hurricanes remind us that “no man is an island,” the Lone Ranger is a myth, and one’s sense of community is a vital aspect of life.
All of this runs counter to a trend in the Western world to identify with the phrase, “I am spiritual but not religious.” In doing so, one is saying that the organized community of believers is not much of a priority. Nothing could be further from the teachings and example of Jesus Christ.
Relationships are why we are created, not isolation! As Basil the Great said, “If you live alone, whose feet will you wash?” And Jesus taught his followers to wash one another’s feet. Yes, the adventure does begin with our own personal spiritual experience (relationship) with God. However, that experience calls us to empty ourselves of excessive pride and arrogance (hubris) in order to allow God’s grace to heal and transform us, as we remember who we are, the image (or sons) of God. That inner emptiness makes it possible to welcome other people into our heart.
Once we have invited others in, God calls us to form loving bonds with them – in other words – to form a compassionate, healing community. Yes, the adventure of faith is lived out in the community with others. We call it the church. In the church, there are no solo Christians.
It seems to be human nature that everyone needs both solitude and community, although different personality types may have to balance those needs in different ways. This paradox is evident in Jesus’ teachings. He went off alone to pray, but he also immersed himself in the people of the countryside and towns in his native Galilee. He told his followers to pray in secret but to love others. The two great commandments are to love God (solo) and to love one’s neighbor (communal).
Many people tend to think of spirituality in individualistic or even private terms. “It’s about my personal relationship with God or Christ.” Because of this, we don’t always recognize the importance of community. And may even see community as an obstacle to spirituality. “I’m spiritual but not religious” seems to be code for, “My personal relationship with God matters to me, but I don’t need or want a community to infringe on that.” To the contrary, one might look upon one’s church community as a “school of love.”
I cannot learn to love outside of a life long commitment to the community. That does not mean that one’s experiences in the community are without conflict or pain. There is the story of one believer who could not get along with another brother who coexisted in his community. They had a “personality conflict.” Upon sharing this with a wise friend, he was told that this difficult person was his “Saint maker.” That is to say, he was called to learn to love and have patience with the difficult brother.
In the process he would become more and more like Jesus. Don’t we all have “Saint makers” in our lives? Who is yours? It is this living in relationship. especially within the church, that transforms us and helps us to recognize who we really are (the image of Christ), or as the Bible says, the image and likeness of God which is our original identity anyway. And, oh yes, whose “Saint maker” are YOU?
We are called to embody the love of God in our lives. Not just talk about it or think about it or pray about it. We must live it in our guts, our muscles, our hearts. We manifest that love when we share the ordinary rhythm of life with others who are likewise seeking to grow in love and compassion. Such love naturally manifests itself communally. One writer observes, “Isn’t it ironic that in a world with more than seven billion human beings so many people are lonely and hunger for community?”
The Christian way of life reminds us that true community can only be found in God and his incarnated Son. I invite you to give yourself to God so that God may use you to share love with others – bringing hope into our lonely, hurricane wounded world.
Remember, there are no solo Christians. May your week be blessed in community,
Sources: Much of this Reflection has been crafted almost verbatim from Chapter 6 (Compassion and Community; Where Two or Three are Gathered) of Carl McColman’s 2015 book, Befriending Silence.
Photo: The Lone Ranger is a fictional masked former Texas Ranger who fought outlaws in the American Old West with his native American friend, Tonto.-from Pinterest.
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