Saturday, April 29, 2006

Meditation IV

Discipleship marks us. We, who the Lord has called through our baptism, leave an indelible mark on the world. Or rather, we should.

As we're painfully aware, however, we often do not. Throughout the history of Christianity, there have been scores of saints. But for every saint, there were legions that scandalized the faithful through their apparent lack of disipleship. A bowed head is the only honest answer we can give Nietzche, who once said, "I would believe in your redeemer if you looked more redeemed." If we have the humility to truly face our own hearts, we'll recognize many more times we marched with the legion than danced with the scores.

Today's scriptures demonstrate two important factors that may contribute to our flawed discipleship: Fear and immaturity.

WAU Online Christian Devotion explores the first factor:
Fear—from minor concern to debilitating anxiety—is familiar to all of us. Scripture tells us that Satan manipulates us through our fear of loss and death (Hebrews 2:14-15). The thought that our fears give the devil an open door to hold us in bondage can alarm us even more. So how can we best deal with fear? Scripture tells us that Jesus, our model, also experienced fear: he “offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death” (Hebrews 5:7). But Jesus always let his fear move him to deeper prayer and stronger faith in his Father (John 12:27-28).

Jesus wants us to have the same faith in his Father’s ability to protect us. Without this faith, we will remain in bondage to our fears and anxieties. What’s worse, without faith in a loving God, we end up having only ourselves to depend upon. And the longer we live, the more we realize how vulnerable we are. We end up fearing for our health, our financial security, the people in our lives, what others think about us, the church, the world, even our spiritual well-being.
Jesus, indeed, models for us the way to subdue fear. More importantly, he exemplifies how to do so in his very person. Jesus, the Son of God, lives in a completely self-giving union with his Father and the Holy Spirit. While living as a distinct and unique Person, the Son of God shares the very essence of himself to the fullest measure with the other Persons of the blessed trinity. He did not resist evil merely by standing alone; he models how important life in a self-giving community is to the life of discipleship to which he calls us.

One Bread, One Body reiterates the importance of community for nurturing that second quality essential to embracing Faith:
Most church communities have a small minority of men, many of whom are not mature enough to exercise much leadership. They would be hard-pressed to raise up one or two strong men for full-time service. How did the early Church get all these spiritually mature men?

Through community life, the growth rate of men was greatly accelerated. In true Christian community, we can grow more in one year than in twenty years of isolated, individualized "Christianity." Community life is the atmosphere conducive to growth and maturity in Christ. Growing anything is not only a matter of working but of climate. Community is the climate in which a Christian can grow.
Isolated lives soon become paralyzed lives. Today's culture often fatally confuses isolation for individuality. While independence is a worthy principle that allows us to express our unique personhood, it can't be exercised alone. We don't even have names without one another. We slowly die when we're confined from each other's company, however irritating some of that company may be.

Within the people of God that is the Church, we find the community of self-giving lovers through whom Christ lives. We also find the ragtag collection of scandalous sinners that make the most Foolish of us wonder why we bother. Welcome to humanity, fearfully and wonderfully made.

We mature as we live within community. We grow in our faith as we share our lives to the full within the community of Faith. As we mature in our spiritual lives, we understand how to more fully place our trust in the Lord. Fear loses its grip over our hearts the more we grow in that trust. Thus, the living of our unique personhood and individuality in community is how we liberate ourselves from fear. We become the disciples Christ has called us to be as we leave our fears behind.

We can not be disciples alone. Thank God, we don't have to be. The Church stands by our side to help us share our witness. We are never alone.