My posts have been far to scattered lately. I’m still trying to sort out my new routine s I am in training for work. My time in God’s Word has thankfully been able to keep up though, and I would like to share what ahs been on my mind from that lately.
I was listening to the book of 1 Thessalonians the other day. The first two chapter really jumped out to me this time around. It was not so much one specific verse as much as it was an overall theme. It is a them I think we see all throughout Paul’s letters. It is also a them that I believe goes largely ignored by people who talk about Pauls’ letters. It gets ignored because its application requires vulnerability. It requires opening yourself up to others in a way that makes use feel uncomfortable. The them is a pretty simple one really. What I find in these two chapter is just how much joy there is in investing in people.
How often do we hear that concept today? How often have you thought about the joy and importance of investing in people? We hate that concept. People are unreliable. They hurt and gossip. They slander us. They betray us. They break our hearts. People are ones who run into schools and shoot children, fly planes into buildings, bomb innocent people, and are simply all around evil. How are we supposed to invest in a race that is plagued with depravity?
This is exactly what Paul did though. He remained heavily invested in people. sometimes this lead to painful heartache, but it also made way for opportunities of immense joy. It came down to the method in which Paul invested in people. He didn’t invest in just the person. He also invested in the potential use God had for them. Paul invested in what God could do in their lives.
We don’t like this idea of investing in people because it requires community. It requires exposing ourselves in ways that aren’t comfortable. This is especially difficult for men I think. People have asked me what the hardest part of marriage is for me, and I think maybe that answer changes form time to time. I know in the beginning the hardest part was being willing to open myself up to my wife more. We don’t like being exposed because that means we are making ourselves vulnerable.
Community requires sacrifice. It requires us to tear down our barriers and leave everything on the floor. If you’re not careful you can become incredibly cynical. That is why you see so many cynical attitudes in ministry and the church. People keep getting burned to much. The environment requires us to expose ourselves, but the results are often painful.
I think we can l say we have been given reasons from experience on why we should not invest in people. We have been given reasons to believe we should stop opening ourselves up to others. Our experience would make it very easy for us to shut ourselves off from the world, and even from the church. many have done so and never looked back. I believe this is a mistake though. It is true there is great risk in community, but there is even greater reward. Sharing life amplifies its purpose and pleasure. Community gives us opportunities to weep with those weeping and rejoice with those rejoicing. It enhances our experiences.
What can the church body do to make investing in people and community the experience it deserves to be? I think it starts by opening itself up. The church wasn’t meant to be a bunch of cliques. It wasn’t meant to be distinguish by single viewpoints or childhood friendships. Church didn’t use to be like that. Church used to be for the outsider. It used to be for the person who was burned by the whole world for believing in the death of a man who claimed to be a Messiah, and was even crazier to believe that this proclaiming Messiah rose from the dead. It was for the outsider who was hated by the world because he believed in the consequences of sin. He believed in the failure of false gods. He believed in true redemption. He was the outsider.
It was ok though because the church was made up of outsiders. It was made up of murderers, liar, thieves, rapists, gossipers, poor, rich, and al the like with one single common denominator. They all believed in Jesus Christ and were hated by the world for doing so. It was ok to be an outsider because there was still a place of belonging. You didn’t need to grow up in that small town to be able to find a place of community. You didn’t need to know the right people in order to feel like you belonged. You didn’t need to know anyone to still feel like you were at home. Your were with family.
What are we going to do to get back to that point today? How are we going to get back to making church a community rather than politics, cliques, rules, and such? There are many church bodies who have realized just that, and have invested in actual community. What will we do as an individual thought when that outsider walks through the door? Will they leave still feeling like an outsider?