WEEK THREE, DAY FOUR, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION
WEEK THREE THEME: COMMUNITY
DAY FOUR THEME: THE WORK OF THE COMMUNITY
SCRIPTURE: PHILIPPIANS 2:1-4 (CEB)
“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort in love, any sharing in the Spirit, any sympathy, complete my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, being united, and agree with each other. Don’t do anything for selfish purposes but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others.”
THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!
SOAKING IT IN: Why are the simple things so hard! Paul’s has a simple and powerful suggestion for community coinhabitation and yet it is the hardest thing to do. Paul speaks of things that each of us find so helpful in our daily lives. We need encouragement, comfort in love, sharing of the Spirit, sympathy… things that allows the most difficult of days to move forward more easily. Selfishly we are happy to accept any kindness from wherever it may come in our living, but it is not always an easy return. Why would we not all want and desire to think the same way, have the same love, be united, agree with each other. That sounds like the perfect life. That sounds like Christianity!
Paul says that this kind of living would make his joy complete. To have his fellow followers of Christ seeking foremost for unity and harmony would point to their shared Spirit of God who sends us powerful tools – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentlenes and self-control. When we inhabit the fruit of the Spirit, how can we continue to quarrel and spat over issues that ultimately have no final right or wrong answer in this lifetime. When will we stop and realize that each of us comes with all kinds of background and baggage that is unique to each of us. We will all have had different experiences – parenting styles – abuses/no abuses – things that have come together to bring us to the present moment. We may need to heal from some traumas or wrap our head around a certain circumstance that seems unusual to the rest of the world. But we share space with others who are like us and very unlike us as well.
When we see someone who is rich, we feel they got it all right – they are just born lucky – they have all the best – they have everything that we feel would make life perfect – but when we peel back a layer or two, we will most likely discover a pain of a whole different kind than we may have experienced that keeps them from feeling whole and acceptable. As a human race, we use labels so freely to separate ourselves further and further away from each other, rather than seek to see the many ways that we are alike, sharing common feelings and struggles. We may be on polar opposite sides of any “current event” but as we have conversation rather than confrontation we find a bit more information to help us broaden our understanding and possibly contribute to others broadening theirs.
The fruit of the Spirit are not natural qualities found in humankind. As a baby, we may not see a stranger but early on, onging conditioning through day to day life may make everyone to beome a stranger and life becomes a scary place. Life – the hard times especially – condition us to be fearful and defensive first often closing all doors to understanding and wholeness. As we welcome the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we have more indwelling peace that gives us the freedome to explore with one another our differences rather than always keep others a safe distance away. It is only through embracing one another as joint heirs with Jesus – family – neighbors – community – that we can find unity and Godlikeness in one another.
As Saint Francis says, “Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where they is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. And where there is sadness, joy. O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”