Friday, March 7, 2008

Grace and 'Grace community'

There is this dilution and exaggeration of the word ‘Grace’ today. Almost all religions believe in some sort of ‘Grace’. It’s not too hard to believe that there is something called a ‘general grace’ (or common grace).
Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said, "Your Father in heaven gives the sunshine and the rain to the just and the unjust alike." Unbelieving farmers get rain for their crops just as much as believing farmers do.

Christian denominations have a great love for the word ‘Grace’ and there is nothing wrong in it as long we understand grace is not bigger than God (It’s giver). When we say it is by Grace through faith we are saved, we should be meaning that it is God who saves, not grace or faith. It has become a fashion among Christians to insert ‘grace’ in almost all conversations, sermons etc.
May be it’s time to take a step back and wonder if we made grace bigger than its giver. It shouldn’t be the ‘grace theology’ what drives us, but it has to be the love of Jesus, the originator of grace.

Indoctrinated philosophy can have a very strong, but negative impact. As an example I would take ‘communism’. I am little familiar with that ‘ism’ and I personally know that there are people willing to even die for that philosophy. The question is, are they motivated by love? Not at all. They are not even motivated by the founder of communism. But they have been indoctrinated and brain washed to believe that is the way of life and the more people they get to believe it, the more successful (and secured) they are as a group (or sect). Their security is in their community.

When grace becomes a ‘theology’ or a ‘philosophy’, I wonder if it has an effect like communism, ultimately producing some ‘grace Pharisees’. Such proponents would try to inject that philosophy to others to believe in grace and everything about grace and use that word very often, adding a few more people to their community.

Believing in grace is not what saves us or sustains us, but both are done by believing in Jesus and as He lives His life through believers.

I love the word ‘Grace’. It is one of the most important and most beautiful word in the English vocabulary (in the biblical perspective). But, I just don’t want to lose its true meaning by its over-use (if you know what I mean).

I think we shouldn’t even use the term ‘grace’ if we are not motivated by love (love of Jesus). When we use grace to show the badness of law (legalism), are we operating by the love of Christ or the love for the ‘grace community’?
Communists oppose when they are challenged for their beliefs because of their ‘spirit of community’. Catholics oppose when they are challenged for their beliefs because of their ‘spirit of community’. The concept of community itself is built around the idea that everybody need encouragement, mutual edification and some kind of security in it. But when the ‘spirit of community’ (or the love of community) replaces the ‘love of Christ’, could it have a lot of negatives?

I am all for community. But my prayer is, I don’t want community as the source of my security (even if it’s called ‘grace community’). My security has to be in the perfect love of God which drives away any fear (even the fear of not having any community). It is easy to say but hard to live. As I am writing this, apart from the small 'blog community', I have no other community that I am genuinely part of. Sometimes I worry about it. What if something happens to me or my wife or my kids? Where do we look for that human support? I prayed (still praying) hard to bring a handful of people in our way to have fellowship, sharing and encouragement. Why I am praying such a prayer? Yes, it is because of my longing to have fellowship. But deeper than that, what is the root cause of that prayer? It is some kind of fear! It is some kind of inability to 'rest' in the all sufficiency of Christ! It is that fleshly unwillingness to trust Him and Him alone. (That is my confession).

This is what I am thinking today: May be (just may be) God is not answering (or answering?) my prayer for the need of a 'immediate' solution to this, is to take that traits of people-provided security away from my life and to open my eyes to see the important (but sometimes painful) truth that all I need is Him.

7 comments:

Walking Church said...

"As I am writing this, apart from the small 'blog community', I have no other community that I am genuinely part of. Sometimes I worry about it. What if something happens to me or my wife or my kids? Where do we look for that human support? I prayed (still praying) hard to bring a handful of people in our way to have fellowship, sharing and encouragement. Why I am praying such a prayer? Yes, it is because of my longing to have fellowship."

Bino - going through the same thing -but it not fear - it is the isolation that kills. I believe God built us for community, His community. I don't think I have to convince you on that.

What I have found so far and I have been outside of tradsville for 5 years...is that He has brought all that I need to me...whether is money, books or people. I have been going to breakfast with a group of guys..maybe 3-5 that are passionate Jesus seekers. It is a life style not just a sit in a building on a Sunday morning.

Recently, I have felt to do something called meeting of one -which has been very recent and very much an infant complete with falling spells.

My suggestion is use your discernment in Him. Watch for people he brings to you. Think outside the box - meaning, you could be lead to start a home church (not necessarily on a Sunday) or a walking church - a walk with believers on trail, beach and go for a cheap breakfast afterwards to continue to fellowship. The beautiful thing about Christianity is that it is a very grass roots organization and how we some of the body has made it a Mega production, I don't quite understand.

I can assure you that there will be times you will become very discouraged; even by the best of your brethren; but these are growth lessons and opportunities to love.

Any time you get a bunch of Christians in a room - they all want to behave like children and take each other eyes out or do some wrestling - gotta love people. The flesh is very alive in believers...

Yes, you are wise to tell Abba of your needs, watch, and listen. It may not come the way you may think it will.

p.s. you can always meet for a walkingchurch outing or a meeting of one or a guys breakfast!

Joel Brueseke said...

Bino... some great, transparent thoughts here. Many of them have been my own thoughts.

But first, a couple of thoughts from other people. Steve McVey sort of addressed some of this in his post "
Lie #36 Attending Church Will Keep You From Growing Spiritually Cold
." In short, he says it's Jesus Himself that keeps individuals "on fire," not community (paraphrasing for our conversation here). But of course we naturally long for community, which is addressed by Wayne Jacobsen in this article, "Why I Don't Go To Church
Anymore!
" Scroll down to the section, "But don't we need regular fellowship?" I think he's right on the mark, as I read all three paragraphs there.

For a long time I've been praying for local fellowship, in the same way as you. So far, the type of fellowship that I desire hasn't come my way, but along the lines of what Alvin said, God has sent people my way in the way that has built me up and edified me, and vice versa. Mostly through the internet.

The local fellowship that I did have, in my small group, was somewhat edifying, although I was very definitely with a group of non-like-minded people, and all the while I've been praying for like-minded people to share life with.

I've had various thoughts about this, and maybe the Lord will stir some of this up and maybe not. At times, I've thought about putting an ad in the newspaper, just to see if there might be anyone in my community who is thinking along the same lines that I am. Not to "start a church," but to simply share life with others.

In his "
Ministry in Boerne, Texas
" post from last night, Steve mentioned the idea of "formally starting Grace Walk Groups around the world." Perhaps this is something that might be able to happen where you're at and/or where I'm at.

I like what you're saying... we can only find our security in Jesus, not in community. Our friends, our community, is not secure. They will not always be there for us. They will not always care about us. They will make mistakes. And by "they" I also mean "we." We're fallible, but Christ will never let us down, and when no one else is around He is always our tower and refuge and strength.

Aida and I shared briefly a few days ago, through email, the idea of having some sort of online get together. I'm still thinking about this and I may blog about it to see if anyone has any ideas. There are several video/audio/text ways to have a group of people together online at the same time. I'd love to do something like this, and perhaps something will come of it.

Walking Church said...

There is much to be said for being with people...personally it is okay to internet but it isn't the same (for me - I am not setting the bar for anyone on this)...There are times I need a hug from a brother or sister in Christ and there are times they need one from me. When I was a Gideon we use to pray with brothers on the phone all the time...this is again okay...but it is nice to be in a circle of the brethren who are deep in Him.

There is value added when you see a brother's smile and laughter over a hot breakfast. It is neat to pray in the parking lot outside the restaurant.

Being able to read another's body language is a bonus too...you can lie on the internet...it is a little tougher to eye ball a brother and tell him everything is going grand when it sucks.

I never use to be an advocate for community - I thought I could live without it. We are built for one another and for some people they do not have any brethren in Christ even sharing the same roof.

I am going to say the obvious but I think we have been so programed into believing this concept of having to go somewhere to church. We are the church...whether it is on the internet, phone, on the beach, in a restaurant etc. We don't go anywhere to be the church...we are in Him his precious Bride called the church.

I have rambled and perhaps verged on a rant (a Sarx confession) - but in my heart of heart we are built to gather even in small numbers - where two or three...blah..blah...and it is sometimes in these situations...where we are being sharpenend...cause Abba has put a thorn in form of a brother or sister (who grates on you) beside you.

What comes to mind as well, it is not unlike burying a loved one - no one should have to do it alone or be alone...it is important just to have someone stand with you, not even saying anything...just to hear someone breathing and know you are not alone.

Joel Brueseke said...

Alvin... I didn't get a fleshly rant out of what you said. :) In fact, kudos from me to you for what you said. As the NIV words it in 1 Cor 12, "the body is a unit" and we truly are created to be a body unit that is made up of many diverse parts, all contributing their part in the overall make up of the body.

"The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you.' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you.'"

I think it's true that we all need one another. I do believe that we may have seasons in which "our part" in the body is "apart" from being physically connected with other members of the body. This season in my life is as such. I don't have any deep interaction with any local Christians right now. In fact, one of my only conversations with a brother in Christ was a matter of him saying to me jokingly and sarcastically, "come back to the fold, you lost sheep!", in response to me having told him that I hadn't been "going to church" since last spring. ;)

On the other hand, the only other conversations that I've had in person with a brother in Christ have been with a guy who works at the hospital I work at. We cross paths occasionally, and he's been dealing with some really hard issues in life, including his parents getting old, and not wanting to put them in a nursing home, his daughter having a troubled pregnancy and a few other issues with his own health. As far as I'm concerned, he and I have had "church" (we are the church) many times in the back hallways of the hospital as we've spent some time sharing our hearts with each other.

Other than that, it's all been online for me. Like you say Alvin, this is definitely not the same as face to face. I've had to truly live out what Bino is saying here, that we cannot be dependent upon community, or find our security in it. Although I've been blogging for 21 months, it's really only been in the past 9 months that I've really gotten to "know" some people. Before that, I was lonely, and longing for some true, deep fellowship, even in the midst of real live people who I met with who simply were on a different page than me.

(I had some great interactions on the Grace Walk forum, but I didn't really sense bonds forming in the way they have through all our blogs).

Anyway, perhaps this is my own sarx confession. ;) I still do long for face to face, heart to heart fellowship, but during this particular season it just hasn't been happening. I've had to depend deeply upon my security in the Spirit.

Walking Church said...

I personally like the conversation with some of the people I run into from where I last attended trads-ville.

They will say 'oh where are you going now?'

I reply 'what do you mean?'

They say: 'what church are you going to?'

My reply: 'no where'

Usually they say: 'You are not going to church?'

I pipe up proudy (sarx-ism): 'I am the church! How do you go somewhere when you are it?'

Trust me - it kills any conversation with most trads.

Joel Brueseke said...

Alvin... I've spoken with this same man three times now about this. (In all cases, we didn't have much time to talk). The last time we spoke, I said those very same words. He asked, "So tell me again what you're doing? You're meeting with some people at some church or something?"

I looked at him and motioned back and forth between me and him and said, "we are the church."

He said, "Well, yeah, duh..." But his facial expression was as if he thinks I'm missing something.

He continued, "But you're not attending anywhere."

That would've been the perfect opportunity to drop the line you gave. :)

Anyway, the Lord had me to be "part of a church" (I really use that phrase loosely) for a rather long season, and I think He sowed some seeds and produced some fruit through all of that, but right now I'm really enjoying this "freedom" from the system and I can honestly say that my growth in grace has been great during this time. It's been truly enjoyable to just be who I am wherever I am, without worrying if anyone thinks less of me (or more of me, for that matter) for any "spiritual" reason.

Bino B. Manjasseril said...

WC and Joel,

Some great thoughts here. I read the links Joel linked as well. All of this making me to say one thing very clearly:

I can tell you absolutely that my worst days outside organized religion are still better than my best days inside it. (Quoted from lifetream.org)

I couldn't agree more. I am not interested in organized religion anymore. Couple of other things he said:

It will give us a false sense of security to think that by attending a meeting once a week we are participating in God's church.

I think this is the point I was trying to make in the post. If the church or community (organized or unorganized) replaces Jesus, thats where I see the danger.

Periodically on this journey we may go through times when we can't seem to find any other believers who share our hunger.

If we were in a place where we couldn't find other believers, Jesus certainly would be able to take care of us.

Though I am concerned about I being in such situation, I would imagine that there are many - in prison, rescue shelter, hospital, military etc where they couldn't possibly find any meaningful fellowship of other believers.

I don't want to get into the organized church just for the sake of fellowship. If He has given me everything I need for life and godliness, He would definitely give me the fellowship as well whenever and wherever He think that I need it.

I know many parents send (read drag) their children to church thinking as they grow they become good, morally pure, Jesus loving adults. Well, its simply not true.
In fact the opposite is true.

There are many things provide us a sense of (false) security - churches, money, job, health, relationships, community etc. We are so used to all these. It might take sometime to shed some of those elements out of our life in order to come to a place where we have only Jesus who is the real rock (security) of our life (salvation).

Thanks WC and Joel for expressing your mind here. I liked the suggestions WS put forth in terms having some face-to-face fellowship with other believers. I am all for it and I have the longing for it. (I know what you are talking about the body language). But at this moment I have no such luxury. But I am keep my eyes open, not neglecting any opportunities to get hooked with others who are in the same journey.

I am going to wrap up my comments by quoting the exact same thing WC said:

We are the church...whether it is on the internet, phone, on the beach, in a restaurant etc. We don't go anywhere to be the church...we are in Him his precious Bride called the church.

Amen!