Living life in isolation as a Christian is a legitimate option. I dare say that EVERYONE has been wounded by a fellow believer or by a particular Church in their lifetime. That pain un-checked can drive us away from community, from allowing ourselves to get close… it pushes us back from admitting we might need others in our lives. According to a 2008 Zondervan/Knowledge Networks study, 24% of Christian’s only practice their faith “privately”, outside of the church, they are called “christers”. (Christmas and Easter atttenders)
Isolation denies the opportunity for us to develop trust, it robs us of the richness of a true friendship or the intimacy of an earned comrade by your side. When we withdraw from the uncomfortable, from the risk of relying on someone else… we do limit our ability to be hurt further, but we also remove ourselves from the strength and companionship of a community of faith. Many of us slide into depression or worse… numbness.
Ever wonder why so many of us get angry or bitter towards the Church? Ever consider why there is so much cynicism and angst with the way a particular pastor or leader teaches or a specific church handles its ministries and events? When we add kids and marriage into the mix… this whole issue becomes simply overwhelming at times. Families are tempted more than ever to just isolate themselves from others. I believe as in most complex circumstances… the simplest answer might serve us the best.
Could it be that we are just afraid?
No shame in admitting to that. No doubt many if not all of us from time to time avoid the risk’s of being too close to our fellow believers. Choosing instead to skip services, or ministry events or even social time with those we attend sunday services with. We all can identify with the struggle between trusting someone with our true feelings vs. giving the expected and safe responses to the standard social greetings we exchange each sunday.
But what if we decided to we wanted more?
What would happen if an entire generation of Christians chose to risk relationship? Risk rejection, risk condemnation and risk betrayal? What if we took the step of faith to come out of our safe and secure isolation and embrace the messy and often painful scrum of real community with real people? It might change us, and it might change them.
Real Christians…with real life in them, living in real community. That could begin to re-establish love and trust and hope of living in even the most jaded believer. It might create a genuine – sacrificial – faith in us that not only met our needs, but the needs of all who joined with us. That kind of living would be sort of like leaving one kingdom or world and stepping into another.
Leaving a world full of doubts and fears and regrets and entering into one full of redemption and forgiveness and second chances. A new kingdom with a new king that would allow for us to be messy and inconsistent in our faith, and who would only demand we give up our right to be in control. In exchange, that King would grant us a life of peace and renewed strength and healing for us to have new life, new perspectives and new depths of love and patience for others. A king that would be full of justice and mercy and compassion to all who entered his realm. Where peace overshadowed war and hope displaced despair…
Sounds like a fantasy right?
Not any more. Jesus actually did all of those things for us. He left His isolated and comfortable place in Heaven to become a weak and vulnerable man. He took the risk to live in community with people who were messy and foolish and unfaithful. He was willing to let go of His “rights” and suffer the rejection and pain of betrayal. In exchange He gained 11 disciples who would follow Him no matter what it cost. Those first disciples were the beginning of something new. Something different. A Kingdom without the constraints of geography or age or time. A kingdom that’s been offered from then until now… to everyone.
A baby boy in Bethlehem was the beginning of this historical and epic true-life-fairytale that invites all who will… to play a part. A specific role that requires us to risk everything to be a piece of the bigger whole. This Christmas, would you consider stepping out of the comfortable places in your life and into the “dangerous” world of community that Christ has prepared? It will require us to share what we have and help and be helped by people who may or may not understand, appreciate or reciprocate our sacrifices. But I believe it’s the ONLY way we can step completely into Christmas.
I pray that as families you will consider doing more than just donating a financial gift to your local church this year. Maybe it’s time to take the risk of stepping out in faith to the offer of genuine community. My Christmas wish for us all is the gift of… Reconciliation, with man, with God and with our families. Take the risk to live and SHARE your life this year! We need you… badly.