Community to Cultivate Selflessness

llm-apr14_disc3According to Institute for Creation Research President John D. Morris (icr.org/article/6331), “Nowhere in the New Testament do any of the Greek words translated ‘fellowship’ imply fun times. Rather, they talk of, for example, ‘The fellowship of the ministering to the saints’ (2 Corinthians 8:4 KJV) as sacrificial service and financial aid. (See, for example, 1 Timothy 6:18). Elsewhere, Paul was thankful for the Philippian believers’ ‘fellowship in the gospel’ (Philippians 1:5 KJV), for he knew that ‘inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers (same word as fellowship) of my grace’ (Philippians 1:7 KJV). This sort of fellowship may even bring persecution. We are to emulate Christ’s humility and self-sacrificial love (Philippians 2:5–8) through the ‘fellowship of the Spirit’ (Philippians 2:1 KJV). In some ways known only partially to us, we have the privilege of knowing ‘the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death’ (Philippians 3:10 KJV), and even ‘the communion (i.e. fellowship) of the blood’ and ‘body of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 10:16 KJV).”

In “The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life,” Laura Schlessinger links “the basis for requiring a minimum community for certain prayers” to Leviticus 22:32: “Do not profane my holy name, for I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the Lord, who made you holy.”

According to Schlessinger, the verse suggests “that the sanctification of God’s name is a public obligation. This concept clearly leads to the potential for developing strong interpersonal relationships and social ideals, a community obligated to mutual aid and aware of a responsibility to its own members and to all humanity. Community worship is an antidote to self-centeredness.”

In “Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder,” Paul R. Ford states, “The search for community in our Western postmodern world is, unquestionably, both real and pervasive. But just because people want community does not mean that their approaches to finding greater unity and purpose in relationships, or fulfilling important tasks together, will bring intimacy or any sense of real community. More specifically, in the evangelical Christian world, when the focus on community in team or small group life does not move beyond the wants, needs, or task fulfillment of the individual, it is extremely difficult to build a depth of lasting unity in relationships. Put simply, it is difficult to find the communion of the Holy Spirit when the spotlight is on the self.”

In “Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church,” Marva J. Dawn writes, “Our culture is not characterized by persons taking time for one another. Many factors of our society militate against such an investment of ourselves, yet the sacrifice of time always proves to be well worth the

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effort. Social scientists have commented in recent years that the need for psychologists and psychiatrists would be greatly reduced if we would return to such former patterns of caring as lap time for a child, neighborhood gatherings over coffee, family play times, or couples swinging on the front porch on summer evenings. We can’t mourn hurriedly. Nor can we drink deeply of the delights of our lives if we are always rushing through things. For ‘with-ness’ to happen, we need to spend time in conversations, in worship, in wonder, in waiting.”

Dawn also states that our money isn’t always the best thing to give others: “More urgently they might need your farming skills, your medical expertise, or your time to help refugees resettle in a strange land. What is called for here [in Romans 12] is not necessarily financial generosity, but — vastly more important — an attitude of heart that says, ‘Whatever is mine is yours.’”

In 21st century American materialism, our possessions are our gods. The more we have, the bigger is our god. But, in the kingdom of God, we should be willing to share what we own with others if it is the loving thing to do. I think the following insight from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:25–37 is instructive:

Thief: Whatever is yours is mine.

Levite: Whatever is mine is mine.

Samaritan: Whatever is mine is yours.

Keith Porter is the senior pastor of Hillsdale (Mich.) Free Methodist Church. Go to fmchr.ch/gracestudy for the church’s “Means of Grace Study” from which this article was adapted.

GROUP DISCUSSION:

[1] What are the quoted authors trying to communicate? Do you think their views are significant? Why or why not?

[2] Read Romans 12:9–13, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 4:8–11. What do these verses have to tell us about cultivating selflessness in our spiritual walk?

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