Wednesday, June 09, 2010

You Can Change 14

In about six weeks I'm going to begin teaching through Ephesians, so I was excited to see that this next chapter, which focuses on the role of community in change, follows much of the themes in Ephesians. One of which is this: not only is maturity possible through Christ, it's commanded. Chester says that just as sin is a community matter, so too is change.

Sometimes I'm able to remind myself that the sin in my life is rooted in lies. At that moment I can come back to the truth of the gospel and can overcome that sin. However, at other times I need someone else to say these things to me. That's the role of community. Unfortunately, this kind of community is often hard to find. One of the reasons for this is that community is messy. Though we may not want to be pretenders, it is much easier. After all, what will people think if they know the "real" me? So when we are held captive by some kind of sin, we either withdraw from community or begin to wear a mask. Chester says,

I need people who regularly ask me about my walk with God, readily challenge my behavior, and know about my temptations. I need my friend Samuel, who often asks, "What's the question you don't want me to ask you?"

The other reason this kind of community is so rarely found is that we don't want to speak truth to people. I have to say that this is one of the biggest things that God has been challenging me with these days. I don't like saying harsh things to my friends, even when I know that what they are doing is destructive. However, Paul says that one of the ways we grow towards maturity is by speaking the truth in love and having the truth spoken to us in love (Eph. 3:15).

I must admit that many of us don't know how to do this. I know that I struggle with it. How do we respond when someone confesses sin? How do we challenge them to seek God for true change? How do we help them to know the love and comfort of God? We need to come back to the gospel. We need to be able to say to one another, "Yes, this is sin. Yes you are guilty. But Christ has taken on that guilt. He has faced the judgment of God not because of sin that he committed but because of our sin."

I so desperately want to be a part of this kind of community. Not one where, as Bonhoeffer said, "Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is discovered among the righteous", but one whose identity is shaped by brokenness, grace, and hope.

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