living and serving with others

serving with others

Living the others can be difficult. My first experience living with another person was in college. As a freshman, I was preselected a roommate and had no idea who he would be. I was going to share a fifteen foot by fifteen foot room with a stranger. It turned out my roommate was a dairy cow farmer from Ohio and a camping ministries major. I remember after a whitewater rafting class he got a bad sunburn. He bathed himself in vinegar and smelled like a pickle for a week. Although we were very different and butted heads on occasion our living arrangement worked out.

Sometimes living and serving with others doesn’t work out so easily. Sometimes it is work. Hard work. If you are doing life with members of a church or are serving on a team with other Christians you know just how hard it can be.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he writes five rapid-fire imperatives and one promise to those who are living and serving together in the church. The five imperatives have one singular focus on bringing unity to the Corinthian church. Take note of how intentionally intrusive they are. Paul knows firsthand that ministry relationships are full of passion and opportunities for disunity are apparent. Unless you are a hermit, being intentionally intrusive with others is important, especially if you are living and serving with others.

“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

1. Rejoice.

There is no surprise that the first imperative is “rejoice”. Why? Paul longed for the Corinthians to be a cause for his own rejoicing (cf. 1:24; 2:3). He loved the church deeply. He knew there would be rejoicing in the church if all members listened to him, trusted his apostleship and walked in repentance. Paul had every reason to despise the Corinthians and to give up on them. So “rejoice” is an imperative full of faith and expectation that the Corinthians were on the verge of joyous unity. He was nowhere near giving up on them. They brought him that much joy!

How can you rejoice in the Lord giving you a church? How are your church members a cause for your own rejoicing?

2. Mend.

The second imperative, “Aim for restoration,” has the sense of putting back into place or mending or repairing. Living and serving with others is a group assignment and the more you are with each other the great the probability there will be friction and fraction. Paul lays the responsibility directly on the church—“Get it together”—work at restoring your unity in Christ (cf. 13:9; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:10). Paul echoes this when writing another church, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1b-3)

Are there any relationships within your church that need mending or repair?    What are the most prominent heart idols that you anticipate may get in the way of you allowing others from being intentionally intrusive into your life (i.e. fear of man, lover of pleasure, pride, wanting control, comparing yourself to others, failing to believe the best in another, etc.)? Are you working towards restoration rather than destruction? Explain.

3. Comfort.

The third imperative is to “comfort one another” or listen with tenderness (cf. 1:3-11). Paul was aware of the depth of the hurt among both those who were in the right and in the wrong. He himself needed comfort as his relationship with the Corinthian church was frayed.The situation then and now in Corinth demanded mutual tenderness and comfort. Comfort is the currency of unity and harmony. To comfort another means you spend your time and energies to reassure, relieve and repose another who is hurt or struggling.

Who is someone in your church who needs the tenderness of Christ right now? How will you comfort them?     If you were to be struggling with allowing someone to be intentionally intrusive into your life, what would be the manifestations of your struggle (i.e. not returning phone calls, short answers, no eye contact, easily irritable, blame shifting, etc.)?

4. Harmony.

The next imperative is to “agree with one another” or “be of one mind” or “live in harmony” (cf. 1:10). Every church needs this admonition, but no church needed it more than Corinth. The elitist, Corinthianized super-apostles had issues with everything Paul stood for. Harmony is sounds working together on different notes that make a pleasing sound. Paul did not ask the church to agree on everything, but they were called to agree with one another on the the main things like his role as an apostle and message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Are there secondary issues that are causing disunity among you and another church member (i.e. decision making style, not being understood, not liking what someone else is doing, etc.)? Have these secondary things become an idol in your heart? How can focusing on the main thing or the essentials help build harmony between you and others?

5. Peace.

Lastly, the imperative to “live in peace” flows out of such harmony, since being out of tune is not a peaceable sound; rather it’s discord. Peace doesn’t come passively. Nevertheless, living in peace requires intention and determination (cf. Mark 9:50; 33-37; 42-48).

How are you pursuing peace with church members? Would others describe you as a peacemaker? How can you actively live in peace?

God’s Promise

Now, if you step back and look at the whole, all five imperatives call the Corinthians to continuous action day in and day out. If the Corinthians heed them and walk in them they are given a resplendent promise: “and the God of love and peace will be with you” (v. 11b). God promises to give his children his love and peace as they actively do his work together.

What is it like to not experience the love and peace of God? How can the love and peace of God be with you when others do not seem to be at peace with you? In what ways are you being blessed by God’s love and peace with your church members?

Unity by living and serving with others in a team/church does not come easily. We must work at every facet at all times. Restoration is work, comfort is work, harmony is work, peace is work, and even rejoicing requires work. Paul called for continuous, specific focus for the church—and everything depends upon their response.

“Passion for the church involves diving into the community of the local church. It means ‘doing life’ with other Christians by pursuing relationships that extend beyond the church building and official church functions… ‘Fellowship is a uniquely Christian relational experience,’ writes pastor John Loftness. ‘Fellowship is participating together in the life and truth made possible by the Holy Spirit through our union with Christ. Fellowship is sharing something in common at the deepest possible level of human relationships – our experience of God Himself.’ Fellowship means belonging to each other” (Joshua Harris, Stop Dating the Church pg. 75).

Paul was so concerned about restoration and unity in Corinth that he became especially directive about demonstrating affection. First, he called them “brothers.” (v.11) Paul’s relationship to the church is not professional. The familial language assumes that Christians are family in meaningful spiritual relationship. Second, to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (v. 12) was a cultural expression of affection among family members. It is difficult to embrace another person with whom you have discord. Third, Paul shares a “Hello” from his companions in Ephesus, “All the saints greet you” (v. 13). The unity he desires to renew in Corinth is universal. Christian unity is true for the whole Body of Christ. Finally, in Paul’s final benediction he says, “The [amazing] grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the [extravagant] love of God and the [intimate] fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (v.14) The example of the Trinity is also a picture of unity. The promise was for everyone—the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was Corinth’s hope. And today it is ours too!

Who is a person in your life whom you welcome to be intentionally intrusive who you know will love you in Christ, show you grace and provide intimate fellowship? How will you be more intentional involved in the fellowship of your church? How does the grace, love and fellowship of God encourage you to share the same with others?

a lazy boy

red lazy boy

It is easy to find ourselves in the “comfort zone” [do do do do…do do do do… // insert Twilight Zone music here]. Most people do not want to be uncomfortable. If given a choice they would choose comfort over discomfort. When it comes to comfort the one thing that illustrates comfort the best is—the La-Z-Boy. La-Z-Boy is synonymous with comfort. The inventor of this chair was a genius. You just sit down and its cushiness swallows you up.

We live in a world that embraces comfort like a god. We go to the spa and treat ourselves to a massage, facial or pedicure. We like to veg on the couch, munch on chips, X-box our socks off, and binge on relaxation. We love comfortable shoes, comfy clothes, furniture, car and more. We pad our selves with friends and people that will bring us comfort. We desire to go to college or have a lofty career so that in the future we will be financial comfortable.

Do you realize that God got uncomfortable for you and me? He sent His Son Jesus Christ to live a very uncomfortable life on earth, to die an uncomfortable death, to conquer death and rise again so that we might live forever with Him in comfort. I don’t think Jesus spent His life on earth looking for a La-Z-Boy…

1. Jesus challenges us to follow Him, which might be uncomfortable for some. Mark 1:17 “Guys. Follow Me and I will make you…” These guys were everyday normal guys. They had jobs, families, friends and lives. They might have thought that if we follow Jesus He will make our life better, richer, famous, or more comfortable. He said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” These guys were fishing for fish. Why would they need to fish for men? What He was saying is if you follow me I will show you what life is all about. “Get out of your boat, follow Me, and get comfortably uncomfortable fishing for the lives of other people.”

Jesus says that if you follow Him it will be uncomfortable at times by saying some uncomfortable things, “I am sending you out like sheep among the wolves” (Mt.10:16) and “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Mt.28:19) He wasn’t saying, “Go sit in your comfy chair and wait for Me.” We will all choose a the comfort that matters: some a life of eternal comfort (heaven), others eternal discomfort (hell) [note: dot on paper representing a fraction of eternity]. It is all about choosing Jesus.

2. Jesus says you are not really following, if you are not fishing. When you sign up to follow Christ it is a lifetime commitment to fish for Christ [like when you say “I DO” at the marriage ceremony]. In Luke 9:57-62, we see that Jesus is all about committed followers. He shows us how we must count the cost ahead of time (vs.57-58), pay the price during hardship (vs.59-60), and finish the course to the end (vs.61-62)

3. Jesus knows that being fishers of men is not natural to most followers. That’s why He sends His Holy Spirit to supernaturally help us. Once you have been changed by the power of God, you cannot help but tell others about it. When the Packers won the Super Bowl over a decade ago, I couldn’t stop talking about it. I didn’t stay on my La-Z-Boy after the game. I got up and got the good news out there!!

4. God has strategically placed you as fishers of men. Not everyone will respond with excitement like you do as you share the good news, but Jesus says spread the seed (Mt.13:3-8, note the 4 soils: some reject, some listen and forget, some accept). Sow wherever you are. Don’t follow the way of many Christians who get sucked into the subculture of comfort. I would rather trade a life of temporary discomfort for Christ than an eternity of discomfort without Him. Don’t be a LAZYBOY.

What if I got uncomfortable at school? Home? Work? What if I lived like Jesus? What if I lived for eternal comfort and temporary discomfort? Remember, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to live a very uncomfortable life on earth, to die an uncomfortable death, to conquer death and rise again so that we might live forever with Him in eternal comfort.