Jim Egli preached a good sermon last week. It was about doing life together and how crucial it is to follow Jesus in community with people, not alone. One of the things that impacted me the most was when he was inviting people up for prayer. He mentioned a short book he was reading by Dietrich Bonhoffer, the German theologian. In the book Bonhoeffer talks about how so many followers of Christ will begin to put unrealistic expectations on the relationships they have or the community they’re in. They become disappointed in them and remove themselves from the very relationships that God intended them to be in.
This has had me thinking for the past few days. At the time Jim mentioned it, I could relate to it in my own life and it confirmed to me that I need to continue to engage in the relationships that God has given me.
But lately I’ve been thinking of how often I see this trend happen in our church community. I guess being around for almost 3 years is giving me a different perspective than before. I remember coming into this community and feeling accepted as I was. I felt like I was given the time and the freedom to move at my own pace. No one forced me to move, but I still felt lead to change. I think of worship as a good example of that. At first I would put my hands on the chair. Then I started to lift them half-way up. Then I began to lift one hand up to God. Eventually, I was able to lift both hands up to God and freely worship Him without worrying about what other people thought. No one told me or manipulated me to do this. It was being in an encouraging, loving, and safe community that I began to feel comfortable to let Jesus change me. That has happened even more this summer as I shared my testimony during a service. Jesus has shown me how crucial community is and how faithful He is to put awesome people around me that support and love me. Sometimes it’s really difficult to be in this community. I let down others, others let me down, I get disappointed. Nevertheless, I see how crucial and how amazing these friendships are.
What troubles me is when I see the opposite thing happen. When I see people come into a community… they’re loved and accepted as they are… they begin to let Jesus change them and He does… they begin to engage and walk in this community… and then something happens. They are disappointed, somebody hurts them, they are not fulfilled anymore, they can’t take correction, etc. They begin to do what Bonhoffer talks about, remove themselves from the very community, the very relationships that Jesus has given them. They seem to not have the patience that was given them. “Why don’t they let go and lift their hands in worship…” “Why doesn’t the pastor do things this way… doesn’t he see the wisdom in it?” etc. etc. And instead of staying in the community, they remove themselves. Instead of giving away what they’ve been given, they leave. Instead of engaging with the community and letting the wisdom that they have been given by Jesus influence and help guide the community, they do the opposite and disengage.
My heart breaks when I see this. I know it’s hard and frustrating sometimes… but we face things that are hard, not run away. Jesus, help me continue to engage and give away what you’ve given me… help those that are running away, come back and help do your stuff… I think that’s my prayer… Thanks Dietrich Bonhoeffer for your wisdom…