“Many Christians have gathered like ravens around the carcass of cheap grace and there have drunk the poison which has killed the following of Christ.” – Dietrich Bonheoffer
Society at large has made the individual at the focus of everything. Personal achievement, acquisition, status and acclaim bombard us around every corner. From shows like American Idol and the Biggest Loser to the social e-narcissism of Facebook and political agenda oriented lifestyle marketing; there is a cannibalism of community for the sake of self which takes the form of connection but results in an individualistic sense of promotion and self-distinguished accolade. As this type of self-absorption in society grows in its consistency, we set ourselves up to live lives of disconnection to our communities through exclusion and isolation. We abide within our circle of obligation until our position exceeds the necessity of support or liability. We then become accountable only to ourselves in lieu of others in our locality whom have not attained equal measures of success, and only return to the response of community when our storehouses of resources are depleted. In a culture which isolated and excludes for self-benefit and as true followers of Jesus Christ, we must seek community; we must seek the unification of our hearts and minds in Him. In this the strength of a unified body will grow in consistency and community that draws all men to Christ.
“The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The words of Paul to the Corinthians were designed to promote community and refocus their hearts on the Lord. With the individualistic pursuits of careers, security, respect, power and accolade, even in achievements for the cause of Christ; we get mired down by Pharisaical exclusion of others for the sake of intention. We wrap ourselves up in the agendas of our own ventures instead of wrapping our hearts around the word of God, our focus on his Spirit and our mouths around his praise. When we come to focus on the Spirit of God and his speaking to our hearts, we know the unity of God and man as He intended for us. In this unity of the saved and the Savior, we feel connected to that which is transcendent; that which is greater than the sum of ourselves – anything we could think, feel, do, imagine or create. The first step toward unity is knowing ourselves in light of our Lord. We are of Christ and He is of the Father. We are wholly forgiven and accepted in his grace. We are intimately connected to the Spirit of God, providing and sustaining our hearts, minds and bodies through all endeavors. In this free gift of God, we have unity in Christ.
In our journeys in life, we have been given the body of Christ to live in the community of this unity of the Spirit. When we acknowledge and live in the connection we have with Christ, we feel it extend to the others within our community. This unity is exemplified in Jesus interactions on earth. He revealed Himself through the community of faith, using the bond of faith in Him as the Son of God and propitiation for sins as the unifying factor of harmony. From the acceptance of the prodigal son, the counter-cultural aid of a Samaritan to a Jew, the restoration of a doubting Thomas in the midst of his faithful disciples, to an elite, entitled Saul of Tarsus who persecuted his faithful, yet became the Paul who wore the stripes of the signature of Jesus on his back: He restores the isolated and excluded amidst their efforts, both good and bad, through forgiveness, acceptance, and their renewal in Him in unity with the Spirit and the community of the faithful. Following Christ exists in seeking the Spirit of God and drawing near to the heart of the Father, and identifying with the unity in the community of faith, which extends from the bridegroom of Christ to the bride of his church. We must be engaged in unity with the Spirit of Christ for sustenance. We must be connected to the faithful for support. We must be alive in unity that mankind would see that acceptance and forgiveness of salvation in Christ through the isolation and exclusion of sin.
As we connect in our hearts with the Spirit of God, listening to his guidance and drawing nearer to his heart, let us carry this forward into our interactions with others. We are not on a God-given platform to reform the world; we are on a Christ-centered journey to submit ourselves to our Lord and engage others on the road to restoration to his heart. Be this to the believer or the one who is skeptical, we are called to dispense love and be faithful to the one who dispensed love at the cost of his crucifixion for all mankind. As the Lord said to Micah, “He has shown you, oh man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you – to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” As we follow Him, we must put Him in the primacy of our daily lives. As we retain our focus on Him, He sustains us day by day and connects us with others who are on the road of justice, mercy and humble submission to Him. Let us live in the freedom of unity in his Spirit and regain the cohesion of a community of people faithful to the preeminence of Christ in their lives; that we may shine in his grace for others to know the glory of his restoration.