Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Way of Anchor and Newbigin's Thoughts - Part Six

"Jesus did not write a book but formed a community."

This thoughtful and even provocative sentence comes from The Gospel in a Pluralist Society by a man named Lesslie Newbigin. He was a missionary with decades of service in India who then came to America observing and asserting that the only interpretation "of the gospel is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it."

In chapter 18 of his book he goes on to describe six characteristics of this kind of community that believes Jesus and lives by his words and deeds.

The first one: "it will be a community of praise and thanksgiving."
The second characteristic: "it will be a community of truth. "
The third: "it will be a community that does not live for itself but is deeply involved in the concerns of its neighborhood."
Fourthly: "it will be a community where men and women are prepared for and sustained in the excercise of the priesthood in the world."

The fifth characteristic: "it will be a community of mutual responsibility."

Maybe he learned from Ghandi's famous and oft paraphrased quote: you must be the change you wish to see in the world.

Newbigin writes less eloquently but more specifically: "If the church is to be effective in advocating and achieving a new social order in the nation, it must itself be a new social order."
Also, "Its members will be advocates for human liberation by being themselves liberated."

He chooses the clunky phrase "mutual responsibility" because of what he thinks about our postmodern crisis:
"The deepest root of the contemporary malaise of Western culture is an individualism which denies the fundamental reality of our human nature as given by God - namely that we grow into true humanity only in relationships of faithfulness and responsibility toward one another."

Responsibility is a three way street: God cares for me through you, God cares for you through me, and God is cared about through you and me. How do we know we care about God? When we want him to care for others through me, and when we want God to care for me through others. This is mutual responsibility; individual responsibility believes that each person is responsible for himself, that each man or woman is fully responsible for their own condition, their own future, their own life. Maybe from a calculating legal standpoint, but not a community standpoint.

How will people who do not yet trust God in Jesus come to believe in His promises if they don't see His promises being fulfilled within the community that claims to follow Him, believe in Him, and find stuff worth praising Him for?

If we are sharing responsibility for one another's justice and mercy, peace and truth, reconciliation and restoration, then the world will not reject us for irrelevance or gross abuses, but because they don't want what God has to offer through Jesus and His followers.

It may be that there are an everincreasing number of irate athiests and empowered agnostics because there are an increasing number of Christians who fail at caring for one another and their fellow neighbor. One can't be individualistic and at the same time completely loyal in allegiance to our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. It would take an act of God for someone in our society to do that...wouldn't it? It be a miracle!

Pray that God would do this kind of miracle in my life, and I'll pray it for you.


diannaburt said...

That kind of caring is God inspired. Because I don't think He made us to be that caring without Him. There's a lot of greatness in humanity, but not God Greatness, without Him. The God in us that points to Him, but alone, no. I just can't see it.

Tim Hallman said...

I agree.

It strikes me that most people in a church rely on their own resources to love people. This would be why cliques are so common and why people on the margins often stay there. People don't have enough willpower or endurance to love like God requires; to love the hard to love, the unlikable, the different.

I think alot of Christians think that to love someone means to be their best friend. But that is muddy thinking. Can one give compassion, give wisdom, give time, give truth without having to worry about needing to become that person's best friend?