Yesterday we talked about community, our need for each other, and being "there-you-are!" people. I emphasized looking outward, and letting ourselves be used for the good of others. As we warm ourselves at the fire of God's love (a phrase taken from Richard Lovelace in Dynamics of Spiritual Life), we are should be able to turn outward and look to the needs of others.
But what about the seasons in our lives when we are needy? How do we love the church when depression sets in, tragedy strikes or sickness visits much longer than anticipated? Is it possible to love the church even when our normal capacity to interact with others is diminished? Can love be active even when we aren't able to be, well -- active?
The perhaps surprising and comforting answer is yes. You can love the church by allowing the church to love you.
Have you just had surgery? Had a baby? Are you struggling with a chronic illness? Do you have a child with special needs? Have you lost your job and are wondering how you will meet your obligations this month?
Most of us in American culture would rather die than ask for or accept help. We are just fine, thankyouverymuch. We don't need help because we can do it all on our own. We will make it, even if it is by the skin of our teeth. We would hate to inconvenience anyone, wouldn't we?
Well, guess what? This is a highly un Christian ideal. The whole point of the gospel is that we are DEAD in our sins. Helpless. Lifeless. Unable to make even one tiny movement toward God. That's the kind of enemies we are to God, unless we are in Christ. We can't do ANYTHING to save ourselves. It is Christ who breathes life into our lungs, Christ who saves, Christ who brings back from the dead. We are weak, vulnerable, needy. All of our hope and strength is found only in Him.
Likewise, we come to times in our lives when we are physically helpless. We often encounter circumstances that we can't change, and we need HELP. When we deny succor from our family in Christ (the church), we deny them the chance to love us. We deny them the chance to grow and change by serving us. We also deny ourselves the chance to grow and change by experiencing weakness and humility. Our physical weakness serves as a reminder that we bring nothing to our salvation. We can only receive it freely.
So, when you are weak, allow yourself to be served. Allow the people of the church to come around you. Are you having a crisis of faith? Don't run away! Run TO the church, and let them surround you. Allow others to look to your needs.
Does your church offer meals for new moms? Take them! You are doing the church a favor! Are you depressed and wondering how you will get out of bed tomorrow? Let the men and women of the church come around you, lay hands on you and pray for you.
I promise, you will be loving the church as you allow the church to love you!
'This being-with-each-other of the church-community and its members through Christ already entails their being-for-each-other....This being-for-each-other must now be actualized through acts of love. Three great, positive possibilities of acting for each other in the community of saints present themselves...self-renouncing, active work for the neighbor; intercessory prayer; and finally, the mutual forgiveness of sins in God's name.' Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Works, i.184
This is the 6th part in a series. Go here to read 31 Days of Loving the Church from the beginning. Go here to read over 700 other 31 day series.