It is quite understandable that in our large anonymous cities we look for people on our “wave length” to form small communities. Prayer groups, Bible-study clubs and house-churches all are ways of restoring or deepening our awareness of belonging to the people of God. But sometimes a false type of like-mindedness can narrow our sense of community. We all should have the mind of Jesus Christ, but we do not all have to have the mind of a school teacher, a carpenter, a bank director, a congressman or whatever socioeconomic or political group. There is a great wisdom hidden in the old bell tower calling people with very different backgrounds away from their homes to form one body in Jesus Christ. It is precisely by transcending the many individual differences that we can become witnesses of God who allows his light to shine upon poor and rich, healthy and sick alike. But it is also in this encounter on the way to God that we become aware of our neighbor’s needs and begin to heal each other’s wounds. During the last few years I was part of a small group of students who regularly celebrated the Eucharist together. We felt very comfortable with each other and had found “our own way.” The songs we sang, the words we used, the greetings we exchanged all seemed quite natural and spontaneous. But when a few new students joined us, we discovered that we expected them to follow our way and go along with “the way we do things here.” We had to face the fact that we had become clannish, substituting our minds for the mind of Jesus Christ. Then we found out how hard it is to give up familiar ways and create space for the strangers, to make a new common prayer possible.
– Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out
When a new person comes into an established group, there is a great opportunity. Sometimes this opportunity is explored. Many times this opportunity is lost.
What is the opportunity? New growth. Re-creation. Re-birth.
History shows us, however, that a tendancy to cling to tradition, to “the way things have always been done”, often opposes and frustrates this newness. This is especially true in church history.
Even Israel often rejected and killed the prophets sent by God to reknew His relationship with her, including Jesus the Nazarene.
When Christ is leading a group of believers He will bring in new things that no one in a group might have experienced before. It is important then that we be open to any believer among us who presents a suggestion, even if it goes against the norm of the day. Even if it is completely different from what is considered normal or acceptable, it may be from the Lord. To be open to this is to embrace our freedom in Christ to explore Him together as He guides a group of believers through His Spirit.
Of course I’m not saying that we must do everything that is suggested. Test these things in the Spirit with graciousness towards each other. Stand on the foundation of Christ our Cornerstone, but also be open to exploring new worlds waiting for discovery in the unsearchable riches of Christ.
To function together in this way affirms the equality of each believer and demonstrates our trust in Christ to work through whomever He chooses. It also demonstrates the hospitality of Christ to “create space for the strangers” among His radically inclusive new kingdom.
New parts who are grafted into the body of Christ usher in the re-creation, re-formation, and re-birth of each community in Him. This is a work of the Spirit in our midst.
Hold tightly to Christ, but hold loosely to everything else.
Follow the Life!
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