"What the difference is between marriage and "knowing you’re committed to each other", and why does God strictly keeps sex for marriage if people are committed to each other (i.e., the only difference is a piece of paper)? Can I elope?"
We had a chance to study Ephesians 4:25-32 this past Sunday as a youth group. We are still going through this idea of community and this passage does a great job putting the hands and feet to this idea of community. However, we got to verse 25 and we had some explaining to do.
The verse says this: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (ESV)
Just looking at it, seems pretty simple - don’t lie, tell the truth. But the laws of hermeneutics stopped me and started asking me questions.
1. What’s up with the “therefore”? So the saying we use all the time is “what is the ‘therefore’ there for?” And as a good student, I simply just look at the context just before 25 and I read that Paul is pleading with the Ephesians to “put off your old desires” (22), “to be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (23), and “put on the new self” (24). In essence, Paul is saying “Hey Christians, live like Christians…if you really are a Christian.” And this is key for the next part that says…
As we continue to move on with (re)defining community, I always want to remind us about the first and foremost thing - the Gospel. It is because of the Gospel that we even have community. So in a sense, I am talking strictly to the family of faith here. If you need more info, please go back and reread Part I.
Community Doesn’t Happen Over Night: I remembered talking with one of my leaders a while back and it kinda went like this, “I just don’t think this whole community thing is working out…i mean i’ve been trying to plug in and it just doesn’t seem like anyone cares or it just seems like it’s all failing.” And I could see the frustration and on some level resonate with them. But very gently I responded by asking, “well…how long have you been “working” at this?” To which they answered, “6 months.” And all I responded was “I’m proud of you for working through it these last 6 months…but honestly, community is going to take the rest of your life to develop.”
This was a random conversation about an upcoming parents meeting with one of my 8th graders tonight (unsolicited mind you):
#hashtags track the frequency of words or phrases. Sometimes It’s used to add on what people really want to say. Other times it’s an excuse to be funny or insulting. But for others, it’s a simple reminder.
I want to remember that when i’m surrounded by good food and good company that #christisenough. I’m thankful for all those many blessings but He is my portion.
I need to remember that when i’ve given my all and i’m just exhausted and there’s nothing left #christisenough. He is my strength and my source of power.
And on those days when I want to quit. When it seems like i’m all alone and nobody follows or trusts or encourages. When I “feel” like it’s not worth it anymore and my heart fails…#christisenough.
#hastags are useful and they serve its purpose…but as you’re living life and it’s going well or life is beating the crap out of you…trite, empty, catching sayings won’t be enough. Do you really believe that #christisenough? Life will surely test this simple hastag and it was separate those who find it catchy from those who truly live it.
#community: Our prayer for this retreat was that our youth and leaders would understand what real biblical community looks like. From the messages to small groups to the worship…we learned that “community” comes from the Gospel. The Cross creates a people - one priesthood, one baptism, one faith.
1. During one of the corporate prayer sessions we had split up between middle school, underclassmen, and upperclassmen. I had asked the counselors to stand up and spread their hands over the youth and pray for them. And I wish you could have seen what I saw. It was like the the counselors were protecting these youth and shielding them. And the counselors were praying that each generation would equip the next generation.
2. It was after one of the messages where the sermon was over the Gospel that changes us. And our worship team (which was made up of two churches) get up and sing this song called “All Glory Be to Christ”. When the lights, acoustics, and the perfection of the singing all joined together…it was unbelievable. I was just sitting in the back and watching our youth and leaders all together singing to our King and all i could do was smile and join them in worship.
3. At our final farewell we wanted to do a last prayer. So we had the ACC youth get in the middle of the room while the SWCBC youth surrounded them and lastly the CBC youth surrounded them. It was a picture of how each church is praying, protecting, and encouraging each other. It was a perfect ending to the retreat. The challenge was for the youth to take what they’ve experienced and bring it back to their respective community.
4. There was no countdown. There was no ticker for the new year. Instead, we ushered in the new year with worship. Ending 2013 and starting 2014 with unhindered worship was simply amazing. And what made it even better was that you’re doing this with family.
1. Reflect and Respond: Take some time and remember what God showed you this retreat. What were some lessons he revealed to you? What did you learn about yourself? Go over your notes and ask yourself, “How should I apply this truth?” But also, if you have unfinished or unresolved things, don’t wait till later but do it now. So if its that you have to disciple, confess, repent, or work…then go do it.
2. Plug in: After a retreat about community, it would only make sense to go back and develop this community back at your church. It will take work. It will take effort. At times you’ll succeed and at times you’ll fail at it. But remember, that the Gospel continues to anchor us and provide the sustaining power to actually see it accomplished. CBC youth & leaders, let’s get to work and help each other out to really build this community. Let us commit to one another and not stop.
May the Lord challenge us to grow and grow all the more this year…
How did you do it? How were you so patient with those that never seemed to get it? How did you disciple those that wouldn’t trust you? How did you pursue their hearts day after day? How did you walk with those who blatantly rejected you at times? How were you never rushed or anxious? How did you love people when they ignored you, belittle you, or even offend you?
How did you do it? How did you take so much blame without letting it crush you? How were you able to balance grace and accountability so perfectly? How did you shield yourself from pride and despair in this fallen world? How come you never gave up, rebelled, or gave in? How did you set this example for me even when you knew I was going to question everything?
How did you do it?
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)
Here comes the deconstruction and reconstruction of community. Like I said in the previous post, this is just out of our personal journey these last 6 years trying to do ministry together. We’ve had some great moments and some not-so great moments. My prayer is that after reading some of these things, you might rethink how you view community.
1. Being Popular ≠ Community: I think this is one of those things we believe but we wouldn’t admit openly. There’s something intrinsic (in our nature) about wanting to be accepted and we want to be the center of attention. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what kind of background you have…somewhere deep down, we want to be noticed, accepted, and valued. And i’m not saying that it’s wrong…but when it becomes ultimate, then i’m saying our focus is off.