Posted by: Caleb Butler | January 26, 2010

More on Community

First of all I apologize for my lack of blogging.  I know that I have some faithful readers, and I would love to be consistent in writing for you all; however, you understand the crazy schedule that comes with the nature of what I am doing.  Quite honestly sometimes I really don’t feel like writing anything coherent.  My mind can get to racing, and recently my heart has been heavy with the circumstances surrounding the Hope Team and residents of JSBC.  With all of that said, I hope you enjoy my thoughts on community and are challenged in some small way to evaluate how you do life.

There is a kind of massage where they press deep into your muscles, called a deep tissue massage.  It is painful.  They literally hurt you and say it’s a massage.  Hah.  But the hours and days following are incredibly relieving and refreshing.  You somehow feel less stressed.  Your body loosens up too.  That lower back pain doesn’t seem to be there, at least not nearly as prevalent.  The lunchtime racquetball games are actually enjoyable, well, until a shot inevitably smacks you in the nose.  In the next week or two, you are craving another deep tissue massage – that’s right, you long for another hour of pain, where the masseuse is digging his knuckles into your shoulder with all of his body weight.  You are totally cool with the temporary pain because of the relief that is sure to come.

I would compare aspects of Christian community to a deep tissue massage.  There is something called accountability.  Christians are called to dig deep into one another’s lives, to the point that it can be painfully awkward or humiliating.  It’s unusual, and it can really mess you up.  When they start asking the tough questions, you want to fight it and tell them to get off your back.  When they really start to dig in with the knuckles and body weight, every fiber of your being tells you, “This isn’t right.”  But remember how I described the after effects of a deep tissue massage?  There is relief and a totally unexpected freshness that results.  The temporary pain has passed, and you are actually stronger, more flexible, and more alive.  A weight has been lifted.  In a week or two, you are craving another session of accountability – that’s right, you long for those deep layers of life to be seen again, for the forgotten pieces of the puzzle to be dusted off and reevaluated.  You are totally cool with the temporary pain because of the life that is sure to come.

God calls His followers to this kind of accountability and community.  The book of James tells us to confess our sins to one another.  Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer explains, “A man confesses his sins in the presence of a brother knows that he is no longer alone with himself, he experiences the presence of God in the reality of the other person.  As long as I am by myself in the confession of my sins, everything remains in the dark, but in the presence of a brother, the sin has to be brought into the light.”  Proverbs says as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.  The past Sunday our pastor at Sojourn preached on Friendship.

He mentioned the necessity and usefulness of a loving rebuke – when a man can speak truth into his friend’s life even when it hurts.  I confess that I struggle to speak boldly, opting to ignore or rationalize my friends’ behavior.  I now realize that is not at all loving!  I am allowing a brother in Christ to blindly disobey, and I do nothing to correct him and point him back to God.  May God give me the boldness and love to speak up when I see a friend stumbling, to dig my knuckles deep into his skin so that he can walk away a changed man.

Sadly we don’t see this very often.  How many of you have deep friendships like what I described earlier?  How many of you are being completely transparent with someone?  Are you digging deep into anyone’s life?  We rarely let anyone past the surface layers.  We have a lot of hidden stuff.  They say nothing good comes easy, and we usually choose the easy things in life.  So many communities, so many circles of friends, so many aspects of American society, act much more like a light back rub.

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