I was perturbed and couldn’t ascertain the reason at first. All day I’d been in a funk and with just a little reflection, the truth was revealed. I was angry that some news had penetrated my world and for the umpteenth time, my peace was broken. It wasn’t the right reaction but a common one for me as part of a close-knit community of believers.
The first thing to know when you are seeking to become a part of a community of believers is that you are greatly increasing the number of people who can ruin your day. When you care about a good number of folks, the odds are that one of them is going through something that needs the prayers and actions of the body of Christ.
They can immediately and without warning infiltrate the peace of your day with a text, email, or phone call. “Robert,” whom you’ve known since he was born ”is being rushed to the hospital for unknown reasons, please pray!” That sick feeling in your stomach and heavy heart arrives promptly thanks to your proper concern for a child in your little universe. The parent’s worry and the suffering of Robert’s siblings are on your mind all day until you get word that the boy has been diagnosed and it’s not too serious. That’s one boy, one day.
Of course this is how we are meant to live in the Church, but modern American Christianity has almost succeeded in divorcing its members from the local church body. We know few of them, the ones we know we don’t know very well and the ones we know very well we don’t care about. It a “Me” culture and the Church is just following suit. Our Sunday schools are fragmented, our worship is fragmented, activities and ministries are fragmented and we are too busy to think about these people anyway because the soccer ministry is short a referee.
The reason our pastors suffer is because most likely they pray weekly for the body by name. When the body sins or rebels or ends up in the hospital, he is in the midst of the blood and guts. This is not just his job but all of ours. The elder is not broken out from the other members of the Church with some higher language about his special gifts, gifts that the rest of us have been denied.
We should be about the same things. And it’s painful. Very much so. Though we put the needs back to our God in prayer, we are frail and without perfect vision and so we worry and are rightly sad at times and these constant burdens that we are asked to carry weigh us down.
And then there’s the capacity we all have to harm each other either intentionally or not. Both hurt about the same. A friendship pursued is not reciprocated. A slight is given. A group fails to include you. Your contributions go unsung. The more time and attention we give to this local body, the more we expect in return.
That’s people for you. Even God’s people. You know, the law was given to God’s people, not the Egyptians or the Philistines. It was God’s people who had to be told not to kill each other.
The more we invest in our local body, the harder it is, the more we commit to these people, the more pain we feel. And that’s our calling. It hurts, it’s amazing, it’s painful, it is glorious. We suffer, we rejoice. We all wanted to be more Christ-like didn’t we?