I was recently listening to a Christian who was a part of the church yet, as far back as I could remember, this person avoided doing anything within the body of Christ. I had made a request that was minor in my estimation, yet the response as though I had offended them by asking such a thing.
Because our conversation was towards the end of the day when my physical, mental, and spiritual energies are almost depleted, this reaction sent me into a theological spiral about selfishness. It is exhibited in the world, but it can also be seen among the people of God. I thought of the people who came and were active in the church as long as their participation benefitted them or their families. When it came time for them to benefit other people, their presence was suddenly scarce.
One of my Asian friends sent me a book entitled Honoring the Generations. In one chapter entitled “The Household of Faith,” the author talks about the household of God as having three main categories: the household of saving grace, or the foundation; the household of unity, or the core nature; and the house of healthy practices and ethics, or the function. In most of our churches, we operate on the first level. We present the gospel and people come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. We continue focusing on the salvation aspect as the children grow into the teen years and then the whole family becomes involved in other things. Other times, the church finds someone who is in desperate need and we help them with rent, food, and a job. They are here for a couple of years but when they become established, they leave for some other place.
The weaving of the tapestry or the bonding of the body of Christ happens in the second category. It is here that people start talking about our church, our choir, or our outreach program. It is here that you know that when someone says, “I missed you last week,” it is very authentic. Members start talking about the church as a family, and the congregational family becomes as important as their biological family. They talk about a person who has become their spiritual father or mother or about someone who has become a sister or brother.
The third level is the most difficult level—it is the sacrificial level. Jesus talks about love, but he emphasizes love that is sacrificial. No greater love had a man than to give his life for his friend. To consider another better than oneself, to deprive oneself so that another person can have what you have, to reduce your comfort or your lifestyle, this is sacrificial love. John the Baptist understood this when he said, “I must decrease and he must increase.”
If the person I called had responded positively, many people would have benefitted. I did not think that my request was a hardship but even if it was, it would have been answering the call that we have as Christians. To be Christlike is to look to Christ “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place…” (Phil. 2:6-9)