A Tribe United

I love this quote by Eugene Peterson and think it speaks deeply to our ministry in San Francisco: 

"The gospel is never for individuals but always for a people.  Sin fragments us, separates us, and sentences us to solitary confinement.  Gospel restores us, unites us, and sets us in community.  The life of faith revealed and nurtured in the biblical narratives is highly personal but never merely individual:  always there is a family, a tribe, a nation -- church....A believing community is the context for the life of faith....Love cannot exist in isolation:  away from others, love bloats into pride.  Grace cannot be received privately:  cut off from others it is perverted into greed.  Hope cannot develop in solitude:  separated from the community, it goes to seed in the form of fantasies.

These are truths not just for San Francisco but for people everywhere.  I mentioned this in an earlier blog post, but one of the major problems in Christianity in America is we have allowed our individualistic culture to permeate the Gospel and for many a relationship with Jesus is merely an individual thing that helps them live a good moral life and get to heaven.  Which of course Jesus does do, but his redeeming love plays itself outward from us, not merely inward.  Entering into a relationship with Jesus is to enter into the Church, a tribe of united, redeemed, broken but made new people in Jesus who are called not to enjoy a life with Christ individually but corporately, in fellowship together.  

When we as Christians see our faith as merely our own we are more inclined to build walls to keep the world out, rather than going out into communities to bring the love and truth of Jesus.  Of course there are moments of personal reflection and refreshment to be had in solitude:  Jesus did this often, but always as a way of preparation for his ministry in the world.  I reflect on this now because I think Alex and I's current situation of support raising should be seen as a time for God to prepare our ministry in San Francisco.  Not merely an annoying necessity, this period of our lives is preparation, a time of refining and remaking that we will look back on as profoundly important to our ministry in the City.  And it is also a period we aren't supposed to go through alone:  we need community and fellowship and our support team is a big part of that.  We thank God daily for you, our supporters and friends who have entered into our ministry with us.  We have an community around us in LA who have been an unmeasurable source of encouragement and a great example of just how the Gospel restores, unites and sets us in fellowship together.  And God in the past week has been reminding me of that.  So I guess this blog post is a thank you letter to those who have been our community in the recent months here in LA and a letter of encouragement wherever you may be, to pursue community and enjoy time with others.  We were not made to be mere individuals loving ourselves but to love God first and foremost and to love others.


blessedwithsons said...

i love eugene peterson. great quote. so resonate with you guys whenever you blog your thoughts on ministry. you guys are in my prayers. paul and i would love to have you guys over some time.