It’s not just ‘Jesus and me.’

We Americans love our freedom. We get to choose where we live, where we go to school, with whom we associate, our political philosophy, where we worship. We believe that we are self-reliant, strong, and independent. We admire the stories of rugged frontiersmen who made a new nation. The cowboy on the lone prairie is admired by every little boy, and secretly by not a few grown men. In more modern tales, we like stories of those who fight their way out of obscurity, beating the odds like Rocky Balboa. Like many myths, it’s only partially true. No one achieves his highest potential by living alone or only connecting with others on his own terms. The best lives are not lived by those who are fiercely independent, but rather by those who weave large webs of relationships with others.

As a young man I was quick to insist on my independence, resisting what I called ‘fetters’ of memberships and associations. Then the Spirit revealed, over time and through difficulties, the truth of the Word about being ‘in the Body!’ “The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:21-25, NLT) Is this just about my human body? No! The context makes is clear that the Lord is describing our mutual relationships in the church, our surrender to one another, our integral connections with each other.

No principle in the Word is more ignored than this one. In my three decades of Pastoral ministry I have felt the sting of disappointment too many times to count caused by people who drift through church after church. They bring amazing gifts and could be an incredible blessing but they won’t ‘marry’ the church. They hold themselves in reserve, resisting the kinds of relationships that would maximize ministry results and personal effectiveness. But, in contrast to these church wanderers, I have known some who have done exactly the opposite- staying with their local church through good times and bad. They endure misunderstandings that inevitably arise in all human interactions. They see leaders come and go and watch as their church shifts ministry and mission, all the while faithfully loving, praying, supporting, working. And, they become beloved people, steady as a rock, respected and admired by the community they have served! Instead of chasing the mirage of self-fulfillment, they choose to serve the Body, for Christ’s sake.

Steadiness is under-rated by those of us who live in a culture of novelty!

Disciple, have you been deceived by the myth of individuality?
Do you protect your ‘freedom’ and hold back your loyalty?
I would urge you to meditate at length on the 12th chapter of 1 Corinthians. You will find that a cherished cultural ideal is at odds with the Truth of God. Love the Lord and His Body, the church. Tell Him that you will serve faithfully, pray earnestly, give sacrificially, and love completely. Oh, yes, there will be a chorus of voices that will tell you that such commitment is foolish, dangerous, and a way to lose control of yourself. The Word says that those choices lead to a strong disciple, supported by a strong network of disciples, whose spiritual gifts find maximum effectiveness.

Here’s a word from the Word, full of revelation of the potential glory of His church. May the Lord, the Spirit, release fullness into our hearts and minds.
“And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. … But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. … He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” (Ephesians 4:2-3, 7, 16, The Message)

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