If only the New Testament could be prefaced by:
*pastes in bible* This message is not just for you. This message is not just for your particular culture, ethnicity, race, or any other dividing line that keeps you from being in a relationship with other people; especially people who are different from you. This message is for everyone. This message is for the person who neglected you recently, for those who you love, for your friends, for those who have hurt you and shown no remorse…and, yes, this message is for you. This message is for everyone.
Where does the Gospel’s core message of radical openness and inclusion for others clash with following Christ in our daily lives?
What does it mean for us to be disciples?
One thing that continues to puzzle me when reading through the Gospels is the relationship that Christ has with the disciples. Throughout the Gospels, Christ deals with human extremes as he journeys with the disciples – offering them authority, tending to their misconstrued understandings, holding them accountable for their negligence of others, teaching them how to serve, enduring their multiple betrayals, witnessing their growth, and so on.
In light of everything, Christ still offered grace and presence to a group of people, who, if we are being honest, probably didn’t deserve such commitment. And, yet, they were offered the most intimate presence of God: incarnation. They were extended grace, especially in the midst of their errors. They were encouraged, through accountability, to grow. And, they were given the amazing responsibility to carry forward the message of the Gospels. We, likewise, are invited to live into the same intimacy, grace, accountability, and responsibility that the disciples were offered. We live into our discipleship by first living into community with God and neighbor.
The first leg in our stool of discipleship is community. Community is the leg of our faith that we are called to lean on in life. As disciples we are charged to live out our faith through loving God and neighbor with everything that we have – heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-39). This is our focus, our mission statement if you will, as we follow Christ by living as disciples. Being a disciple is the journey of being drawn into a deeper relationship with God through loving others in community. Loving others is how we “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Together we are made into disciples and, in turn, extend ourselves in a communal love to serve with others. Making disciples cannot be done at a distance because at a distance we cannot observe and mutually care for our neighbors’ hearts, minds, and souls. The objective of “making disciples” is to bring each other, as an open and radically inclusive community of faith, into the cycle of living within our love for God and neighbor. Finally, we are continuously made into disciples. This not a one-off experience, where we complete a check-list of “to do’s.” We, like our forebears, the disciples, are constantly dependent upon experiencing the intimacy, grace, accountability, and responsibility that Christ offers us in community.
Compare community, the first leg of the stool of discipleship, to a healthy hive of honeybees. Each individual in the hive is less focused on its personal well-being and is more focused on doing tasks that will bring health to the hive. Some bees gather nectar, some bees build combs and process the nectar into honey, some protect the hive, and some nurture the brood. The bees have a positive impact on the world around them by pollenating the plants that they visit. Their activities are focused on protecting and nurturing their queen.
Now imagine that hive of honeybees, exchanging Christian people intentionally living through the love of God and each other under the direction of a loving and powerful queen, the Holy Spirit. The offering and receiving that is modeled varies according to each person’s gifts, but their outward looking orientation has a positive impact on the growth of their companions and on their own growth. The actions of the Christians have a positive impact on the world outside of the “hive” and people who come into the hive.
The image of a hive drives away a focus on personal power and hierarchy, and it emphasizes the incredible potential of our communal energy under the direction of the Holy Spirit to drive a revolution of love throughout creation. Each individual, working within their own gifts and graces, doing their small part of living through the love of God and others, creates with God a positive impact on the world. By connecting through love guided by the Holy Spirit, individuals become communities, communities become churches, churches become societies, and the kingdom of God grows, here and now.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
This week reflect on the spiritual gifts God has extended to you in life:
How are you using these gifts as you serve in community with others?
How do your gifts unite with the gifts of others around you?
As a community of faith, how are your gifts growing a collective discipleship?