Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ministry is Life Among People, not Free From Them!

Southwest Airlines has the catchy phrase- 'Want to get away?' What pastor doesn't, ah, to be free from people! On a desert island, alone.... If this is you then consider this.....

Pachomius was an Egyptian soldier won to Christ by the kindness of Christians in Thebes. After his release from the military around A.D. 315, he was baptized. Serious about his new faith and determined to grow, Pachomius became a disciple of Palamon, an ascetic who taught him the self-denial and solitary life of a religious hermit.

In early Christianity, the model of devotion was the recluse dedicated to resisting the corruption of society. These hermits wandered the desert alone—fasting, praying, and having visions. Many went to extremes: eating nothing but grass, living in trees, or refusing to wash.

Such was the popular image of holiness: solitude, silence, and severity. And such was Pachomius's early spiritual training. But he began to question the methods and lifestyle of his mentors.

How can you learn to love if no one else is around?
How can you learn humility living alone?
How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?
How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?

In short, he concluded, developing spiritual fruit requires being around people—ordinary, ornery people. "To save souls," he said, "you must bring them together."

Spiritual muscle isn't even learned among friends we have chosen. God's kind of love is best learned where we can't be selective about our associates. Perhaps this is why the two institutions established by God—the family and the church—are not joined by invitation only. We have no choice about who our parents or brothers or sisters will be; yet we are expected to love them. Neither can we choose who will or will not be in the family of God; any who confess Jesus as Lord must be welcomed. We learn agape love most effectively in our involuntary associations, away from the temptation of choosing to love only the attractive.

So Pachomius began an ascetic koinonia, where holiness was developed not in isolation but in community. Instead of each person seeking God in his own way, with the dangers of idleness and eccentricity, Pachomius established a common life based on worship, work, and discipline.

In community with flawed, demanding, sometimes disagreeable people, followers of Pachomius learned to take hurt rather than give it. They discovered that disagreements and opposition provide the opportunity to redeem life situations and experience God's grace. Thus began genuine monastic life.

Pachomius, while largely forgotten in church history, points out to us that as attractive as solitary sanctification may seem, it is life amid people, busyness, and interruptions that develop many of the qualities God requires.

from Leadership Journal 1993


hunt4christ said...

So true, I feel left out if I am not with my people, even though I need a vacation or even a get away every now and then, but ain't it funny how we can't wait to get back?

Eleutheros said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eleutheros said...

To read these words...

"How can you learn to love if no one else is around?
How can you learn humility living alone?
How can you learn kindness or gentleness or goodness in isolation?
How can you learn patience unless someone puts yours to the test?"

Was so very cool!

Because those were exactly the conclusions I've been drawn to when I realized that all the human relationships we know; Fathers and Mothers (which includes becoming a Father or a Mother), Sisters, Brothers, Cousins, Aunts and Uncles and even our friendships, begin with the erotic relationship of a husband and wife.

And that relationship, the scriptures teach us, is a musterion that reveals, to those who understand and appreciate it's instuctional nature, how Jesus relates to those of us humans who responded to Him, like sheep will to their Shepard's unique call, when they heard the Gospel.

You know, The Bride.

For from the sperm and egg of one aw-dom (adam), created as Male and Female to exist echad, or, as 'a compound unity', came all the races of human beings.

And where, then, did this whole idea of creating adam come from if not from Jehovah Himself, inspired by Himself?

Is there any thing other to inspire, outside of Him who exists echad among Himself?

Hear, O Israel! Jehovah, our plural God, is echad (not yachid) Jehovah- Deut 6:4

Therefore, since there is none good but Jehovah, that is, He is where goodness comes form and since Jehovah is agape, or fondness and affection and since Jehovah sent His Son to show us that God is a Father, a relationship we know to be the single most important one for raising a fresh new human to be healthy and good, we were created, then, to exist in unity with each other, in all our human relationships, begining with the eros and agape of a husband and wife, just as Jehovah, our Father God exists in unity among Himself!

Not in that unhealthy, dysfunctional and selfish way that exists in far to many human relationships because of sin; but that we were created to need each other to be good for and to recieve good from.

Indeed, what meaning did even Jehovah's goodness possess, in the uncreation that existed before He created the Universe, if He has no one to be good for and recieve good from?

Can we, as humans, male and female, created to resemble Jehovah, please our Father?

If yes, then how can we please Him, if it's not by being good for each other and receiving good from each other?

For without others to be good for and to receive good from, goodness has no meaning.

The first century church even borrowed a few words from our well known human relationships to describe that incredible phenomenon of unity and goodness that sprang suddenly into existence when huge numbers of human beings were given, not unlike sperm meeting an egg, the Holy Spirit of Jesus and the Father.( 1 John 3:9-10)

They called each other brothers and sisters.

Thanks then for posting this! It's so cool to read words from a brother who gets our God!

I love being human!

Be good, then, my brother. It's what we were created to be!"