Being the Body

Over the last few months I have been liberated by a new and exciting realisation about what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

It all began over a year ago with my friend Dan, an old friend from high school who I now go to church with. In May last year, Dan took on the Live Below the Line challenge, living on $2 a day for a whole week, or the Australian version of the global poverty line. While most participants used their $2 a day to cover food costs, Dan in his typical way took it to the extreme and used his $2 a day for food and housing. He slept rough for a whole week at Central Station.

When the challenge was over Dan came back home with a new friend – a homeless man who was becoming Dan’s new housemate. We were all pretty shocked! I mean, it’s really important to help people who are homeless and struggling with mental illness and addiction, but opening your house to that kind of person indefinitely is pretty dangerous. We warned him about the difficult future he was facing but he went ahead and did it anyway.

Of course I was confronted by the situation. There was suddenly a homeless man with mental illness thrust into our church community. But surprisingly the thing that confronted me even more was how I responded to Dan’s decision in the first place. The feelings came through wave after wave:

1. It started with shock and almost anger.
How could Dan do something so reckless? Even in the best case scenario he would end up burnt out and at worst… well, anything could happen!

2. The next thing I knew I was supressing the negative feelings.
Isn’t Dan just doing what Jesus has called us to do? It’s a noble thing and I should be celebrating it!

3. I slipped quickly into guilt.
If Dan is doing what Jesus told us to do and I’m not doing it too, where does that leave me?

4. I circled back into negative feelings: anger mixed in with a little bit of sad as I tried to justify my own inaction.
But he’s being so silly! If I did something like that I would completely destory myself! I can’t open my house to a homeless person, not now!

I didn’t realise it at first, but I was subconciously playing my godliness off against Dan’s – and coming out the loser. Fortunately for me, Dan’s friend hung around for long enough for me to stop the spiral and work out what was going on. Week after week he would come to church and our whole community had to learn how to be with him and include him. Maybe I couldn’t open up my home, but I could sit with him in church, have conversations with him and try and be friends with him too. As this process went on I came to this realisation:

It’s OK that Dan has done this because he has different gifts to me. My job is not to try and exactly imitate others in how they serves God, it is to complement my brothers and sisters with whatever gifts I have.

I was suddenly freed from the destructive thought-circle I was stuck in and I realised that I could actually encourage Dan instead cutting him down in my imagination. I could hang out with his friend to give Dan some respite; I could touch base with Dan when I saw him to see how he was going. At the same time, I could keep doing the things that I feel convicted about, following my passions, but doing all this within the wider context of my brothers and sisters and the things that they are doing. Over those months, I realised a little more about what it means to

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing other in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through God the Father in him.”
Colossians 3:15-17

Praise the Lord! Now I understand more about this freedom that the bible keeps talking about!
Over the last year I have been reminded about this over and over again. When I get uncomfortable because my friends with a stronger social justice bent are passionate about issues that only make me a little lukewarm, it’s not necessarily something I need to be ashamed of. I don’t have to shut down the issue in my mind and ignore it to preserve my sanity. Even though I don’t quite understand why they get so worked up, I should try fan their flame as much as I can and empower them to work for God’s glory as much as I am able.

When I feel guilty about not wanting to go overseas to a dangerous country as a missionary, I remember that I am part of a church – a body – and it is not my responsibility alone. The Holy Spirit gives us all different gifts and my place for now is to pray fervently and support people who are ready to take that step.

When I get grumpy because I disagree with people’s attitudes about how to “do” church, I’m helpfully reminded that we are all part of the same body and it’s probably a good thing that they see things differently to me. It means that maybe they can connect with different kinds of people who I would never have been able to engage with properly.

Thank the Lord that he brings us into a community! I pray that we all keep remembering it as we live day to day serving alongside each other.

For we are the body of Christ;
His Spirit is with us.

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23 thoughts on “Being the Body

  1. ringsandcoffee

    LJ needs a “like” button sometimes.

    My new roommate once brought a homeless girl home with her for a night after meeting her on the bus…her old roommates weren’t too thrilled. I don’t know if she’ll do it again, at least without consulting me first.

    Reply
  2. etimodnar

    “When I feel guilty about not wanting to go overseas to a dangerous country as a missionary, I remember that I am part of a church – a body – and it is not my responsibility alone. ”

    I feel guilty sometimes that I’m not in a job as cool as yours. You’ve shared a couple of times about the awesome things you get to do, like map out statistics that’ll be totally useful for strategic evangelism and church planting. Like caring about social justice issues (though not as much as Dan, lol) more than me. Matt is doing MTS and I’m envious that you get to support him in that work!

    But I do want to go overseas to a dangerous country as a missionary. Even though that’s plenty of years off 😉
    I’m glad that not everything is my responsibility either!

    Reply
      1. pinhead22886

        I reckon its awesome. Dan was never my favourite person when we were in school, but he definitely gets respect for stepping out and doing what God calls us to do- to love recklessly.

        When you think about it, what do we really have to lose? We could have our stuff stolen, but then our stuff really belongs to God anyway, and he tells us repeatedly not to cling to stuff. We could have our life taken from us, but then that’s no longer ours either. And besides, to live is Christ, but to die is gain.

        It makes perfect sense in our heads, but to actually love recklessly is a difficult challenge. I pray God gives us the faith we need to do it! And I pray that particularly for myself.

      2. tibbycat

        You could get your stuff stolen, get stabbed, get shot, get raped. Yah?

        Having said that, I reckon giving money to charities and volunteering with charities is awesome.

      3. pinhead22886

        So what? Those things could happen to you anyway. What things do I own that are more important to me than loving someone else? Should my life be more important to me than showing God’s love to someone else?

        More importantly, do I not believe that if I show ridiculous, dangerous love to someone who is in desperate need of it, God will be with me every step of the way? Jesus took immense risks when he went out of his way to love. He approached lepers, antagonised pharisees and helped the poor and homeless. In the end it cost him his life.

      4. tibbycat

        Okay, well, if you want to walk into a lion’s den and pray that you don’t get mauled to death, then, good luck with that man 😮

      5. pinhead22886

        You did in as many words. You likened inviting a homeless person into your home to walking into a lion’s den.

        At the end of the day, if we genuinely want to live like Jesus, we have to do things that are risky and that take us far away from our comfort zones. God has promised to give us strength and grace that are sufficient for the task, and he’s promised to never leave us and to always work ALL things for our good. So all that remains is to put faith into practice.

      6. tibbycat

        Well, yes not every homeless person will rape and murder you, but it’s putting yourself in a situation that will be more likely to cause you physical and mental harm than you would be at risk of in your own home in your usual life. There are other, safer, ways to help and show love to homeless people than living with them.

      7. pinhead22886

        Less risky doesnt necessarily equal better. The most powerful acts of love are always the riskiest.

        I guess my point is, if God is for us and with us, why are we so damn placid and afraid?

      8. tibbycat

        I think God gave us caution for us to use.

        Just because God is with us doesn’t mean he’s going to save us when we purposely put ourselves in dangerous situations.

      9. Alison Post author

        Argh! Guys! Remember the point of the post – it’s OK to have different opinions on this issue because God has given you both different gifts.

        It’s probably more helpful to support each other in your different opinions rather than to try and win each other over to a different point of view 😛

      10. pinhead22886

        I completely agree with your premise that we are the body of Christ, and bear COLLECTIVE responsibility for these things, and we each have been given different gifts to bring to the table. But before we can work together, we need to be on the same page in relation to what God actually wants and expects from us.

        In this instance, I cannot agree with the attitude that Mark has on this subject. Because from my perspective, this attitude is exactly what has made the western church the pathetic, limp, irrelevant institution that it is.

        The new testament places the responsibility to care for the poor and downtrodden squarely at the feet of the church. That means if there are homeless people living on the streets of our city, it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to do something about it.

        Sure we can give money to charity, or help out with a charity, and those are great things to do. But at the end of the day, these are things that we do because we’re scared. We don’t really want to sacrifice our lives, or compromise our standard of living, and we certainly don’t want to have to step too far outside our comfort zone. Its OUR responsibility to care for the poor and reach them with the message of the gospel, but we’d rather pay for someone else to do it, because its easier for us.

        Jesus said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it”.

        Why do we cling so hard to this life and all its fleeting pleasures when God calls us to so much more. Its dangerous, scary and difficult stuff. But we need not be afraid.

        “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs— heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

        How can we expect to share in Christ’s glory if we’re not willing to share in his sufferings?

        I often find it sad that so many of those people who are out there fighting hard for the human rights, dignity and respect of the poor and downtrodden are atheist humanists. Worse still, as Christians we feel better about ourselves for giving money to organisations that are run by these same atheists. ITS THE CHURCH’S RESPONSIBILITY to care for those people, and we have truth and freedom to share as well. But we’d rather sit in a stuffy church for an hour and a half every Sunday, drop some money in a bag or make a donation to cleanse the conscience, and then continue to live the way we always have because its difficult and scary.

        I’m not preaching from my high horse, because as I type this, its as much a massive challenge to me as it is to anybody. I’m guilty of the same selfishness in every respect.

        But this is a fundamental principle of new testament theology and it goes to the very heart of what it means to be a Christian and of what God is calling us to do.

      11. tibbycat

        I really don’t as a Christian have a problem with not sharing my home with homeless people though, and I don’t feel guilty about that or that I like my standard of living :/

      12. pinhead22886

        The point from Spally’s post is that we don’t need to feel guilty if we don’t have the necessary gifts to do that thing necessarily. We each have different gifts to contribute to the overall process of bringing the gospel to those in need of it.

        What I think is problematic is not that we each dont do the same thing necessarily, but the attitude that we shouldn’t place ourselves at risk in order to minister love and share the gospel with others. Its precisely that attitude that has emasculated the church in our society. What God calls us to do is to offer our very lives as a living sacrifice. That means being prepared to sacrifice everything we own, and certainly to share with those in need the things God has blessed us with.

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying a certain standard of living. But when we want to cling to that at all costs, and we’d never consider compromising it for the sake of doing what God calls us to do, we have ourselves an idol.

  3. smileystar03

    Spally – very insightful post 🙂 thanks for the reminder that we all are a part of a bigger body. I think that brings hope that we don’t have to be someone else – just ourselves, and be faithful to what God is asking of us.

    Brad and Mark – i am reminded of this verse from your discussions.. “James 1:27
    Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

    I think we all (myself included) need to be challenged to think of ways we can each help out our neighbours.. especially the least of all.

    Reply

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