'Day One' Blog

Influenced or Influencing

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Do not be conformed to this world,
but be transformed
by the renewal of your mind,
that by testing you may discern
what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.
~ Romans 12:2 ~

And Jesus answered them,
“See that no one leads you astray.”
~ Matthew 24:4 ~

In Biblical times, Jesus influenced and radically transformed the way His followers conducted their lives. He created the climate and set the temperature. He dictated parameters and priorities. He instigated a revolutionary way of thinking and being. Nothing was the same after He showed up. He was counter-culture, counter-religion… He flipped so many things right-side-up; things nobody realized needed flipping.

We know through the letters the Apostles wrote to the early Church that there were significant challenges to “doing life.” Not surprising considering the radical nature of Jesus’ philosophy of living. They were setting precedent the whole way along, allowing God to define for them something that had never existed before. They stumbled along, getting things very right at times and not so right at other times. They were living contrary to every cultural and religious system in place. We in the West cannot imagine it, not even a little.

The early Church didn’t have the luxury of cutting ties and opening up a new church down the street when they ran into disputes within their ranks. With few exceptions, they kept doing life together. They kept loving one another. They sought council from trusted teachers who could help them sort through discrepancies.

Converted Jews had a ton of tradition that continued to be part of life, but imagine: Gentiles started showing up, and sects started melding, and social classes started mixing… imagine the kinds of interpersonal issues that naturally rose up. These people had NEVER done life together and suddenly, they were brothers and sisters, bound in Jesus. They were now family, pooling every talent and possession, and doling it out so that none of them had need of anything. The reallocation of resources was comprehensive and all-encompassing. They crossed every kind of boundary there was in this new “family.”

Further, they were dealing with life and death matters constantly as they helped the sick and needy in their communities, and as they faced the very real threat of persecution. There was no option but to press in to the hard things. That’s what it meant to be Family. They could not afford to divide. They had to remain bound by their common resolve to live their lives for Jesus, because they would not survive otherwise, nor would they be able to go into all the world, preaching the Gospel and making disciples.”

In modern times, Western Christians opt to segregate for more reasons than we can count. We “celebrate diversity” until it infringes on our ability to practice our beliefs as we want to. We know little of what it’s like to have to press in to hard places and work through delicate matters of dispute. Generally speaking, we are comfortable drawing away from one another and finding a congregation that does not challenge our peripheral beliefs, those things we might categorize as preferences. This mind-set is entirely opposite of the mind-set of the early church. More than reflecting the revolutionary nature of Jesus, we look like a derivative of modern culture. Our priorities and systems of operation reveal as much.

Imagine then, with our “house” in such disarray, our challenge to engage in meaningful discussions with those outside our borders, whose beliefs are counter to those we hold, not to mention those within our borders who espouse varying beliefs about sensitive topics.

~

How would you describe today’s Western Church? What and/or who influences us? Whose set of values do we reflect in our church life? How would you assess our willingness and/or ability to problem solve within our borders? How would you describe our ability to engage in “hot topic” issues within our American culture that are counter to God’s design for living?

I guess I’m curious as to what you have to say about whether or not we are functioning as a healthy Family, reflective of the early Church, who was so clearly and thoroughly influenced by Jesus. Thoughts?

~

~For Reflection~
I Corinthians 6:1-3
Ephesians 4:1-7
1 Peter 1:13-22
1 Peter 2:9-10

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4 Comments

  • Wanda

    1

    I think we are lazy! Any relationship is hard work. Whether it is at church, at work, our friends and especially in our marriages we have to work hard to have the kind of relationship God requires us to have. In todays society it is so much easier to throw those relationships away and get new ones than to try and work thru our differences.

    • Anne Barbour

      2

      Thrilled to have your voice here, Wanda! There is no question we are more familiar with "recycling" as opposed to pressing into hard things. And we also know full well, that one person cannot do another persons part. We have to resolve as a people, that when hardship comes, we are committed to pressing in and working through. We don't throw in the towel and start over somewhere else. And when in some cases, the hard thing persists, we resolve not to abandon each other. We are eternally bound, in Christ. Not everything gets resolved. Not everything "works out." Yet, we remain family, steadfast in our commitment to one another.

  • Paulette

    3

    Healthy? Do we even know what that means? I'm sure I don't. I want to, I desire it! I pray for it! I do get glimpses, but I don't believe I stay very long in that blessed place. It is elusive, seeming intangible, and yet I am convinced that I was created to live a healthy life, emotionally, spiritually, relationally and physically. That separation and drawing away thing you write about is real! It is luring me everyday! I am not giving in to it. So why then? I think it's not for lack of courage or desire, but I feel ill-equipped and frankly beaten down in this season...something's got to change!

    • Anne Barbour

      4

      I think you have come to the heart of why we are where we are. To say that we are "ill-equipped" is to understand that we are a people in need of education. What would Jesus say to us if we were to sincerely ask Him to tell us how He would have us care for one another both within our family and without? How would He have us engage with one another when we disagree about how we ought to live life? How would He have us process through disagreements or discrepancies of any nature? I believe He has given us that guidance in His Word. But I also believe that His guidance runs so radically against our present modus operandi that we buckle, thinking of what it would mean to altar our current course. The faint of heart will likely not be up to the task. But those of us sufficiently discontent really don't have a choice. We have to jump in, grasping the hand of Jesus, and pleading with Him to help us move toward a healthier existence. Health will never mean the absence of conflict. It will simply mean that we are prepared to face those conflicts with a steadfast desire to live in harmony with one another, submitted to Jesus in all things, committed to each other for the long haul.

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