Thursday, April 28, 2005

Communal, Not Individual

This walk down the emergent road with Jesus has me seeing this thing called Christianity in a whole new way. For so much of my life, my focus has been inward. And nowhere is that more true than in my "Christian walk." I have viewed my relationship with Christ in such a one-dimensional way, looking to make myself better, or at least have the appearance of better. Does that ring true for you?

Do you see this relationship--this thing we call Christianity--as a one-dimensional, individualistic pursuit of "better?"

Good. I was beginning to think I was the only simplistic, self-centered, "get all I can get out of God before I die" kind of Christian. Such an individualistic view of salvation can be detrimental to your health. It was to mine, almost resulting in my death (more on that in a later post).

Once I started down this emergent road, I began hearing Jesus speak. His words brought new life to the Scripture. And recently he’s been speaking to me through Thomas Merton, confirming that my individualistic view was quite off-center.

In his 1963 book titled Life and Holiness, Merton says, "…we see that personal faith and fidelity to Christ are not enough to make us perfect Christians. We do not go by ourselves as isolated individuals" but as one body (p. 112).

To echo this sentiment about becoming perfect or complete Christians, I turn to the book of Hebrews. The great Old Testament saints "were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect" (Heb. 11:39-40).

Again, Christianity is not about isolation and individualism. It is not one-dimensional and vertical. Perfection comes through living together as Christ’s body and letting his life of humility, sacrifice and service flow through us to others. Merton puts it this way, "our holiness is proportioned to our capacity to serve as instruments of his love in establishing his kingdom and building up his Mystical Body" (p. 112).

Doesn’t this sound a lot like Jesus’ prayer in John 17:22-23, make them one as we are one, Father, "that they may be made perfect?"

The way I read it, perfection comes only through community. That makes Christianity more communal than individual. How does that change your perspective? What will you do to live more communally and less individually?

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