We are told is to be salt and hence have a purifying effect on people and communities. We are told to be light i.e. to shine brightly so that we look different from the darkness around us. How do we do that?
We chase after healing and restoration and practise on ourselves first. Once we have used ourselves as guinea pigs and developed prototypes of systems that work for our situations we reach out to others in similar situations to help them find healing and restoration. This way we test and refine our prototypes until they become finely tuned systems that work well.
As we started on ourselves we will look different to those around us. We will attract people simply because we are different and have what they want e.g. peace. I used to hear people say this years ago but it just did not sink in. It was a good theory but that was all it was. I would think how on earth could that ever become a reality in my life.
What stops us
My problem was that I was so blinded by my situation that I could not see the truth. There were layers of scales over my eyes. Some of those scales where there because of the things that had already happened in my life. Others were there because of what was happening at that time. Others were there because of how far I thought those I was with were away from what I thought they should be.
Who was going to help me move forwards and show the way to remove those scales? I tried a few different options. I had to look hard for them. They were not presented to me on a plate. No one came up to me and said this is what you do to move forwards. There were opportunities that opened up and needed to be grasped. Things that I could quite easily have said were too hard or not right or to much. I was looking for things that were outside the experience of some of those around me. Things that they did not really understand or appreciate. They had gone so far but no further.
More recently I have started to appreciate that I was really trying to look for a shortcut. I struggled to put in the time needed to pray and to read the bible. It was just minutes rather than hours. It was reading predigested comments rather than making the effort to study and digest things for myself.
How on earth anyone can we develop a relationship without working on it? OK a little something was better than nothing. It is only in the depth of relationship with God that things change. I am now discovering that the biggest issue was the lack of effort I put into building that relationship. It should have been real bible study not just reading a few comments someone else had written. OK better than nothing but it could be a lot better. It should have been 30 to 60 minutes of different kinds of prayer not just a few minutes of one kind of prayer.
Many believe that this is the level that the leaders should aspire to rather than what they should be doing themselves. Some hardly pick up a pre-digested book between Sunday services. No wonder so many of us struggle to be all that could be.
The impact of the pain fear cycle
You might call this the pain fear cycle. I know I have fallen into that trap. Times when I have thought that doing something would be painful so I have feared doing it. The classic time I fall into that trap is when I have to have eye drops. Anyone who has tried to help me with eye drops will know that I am a somewhat exasperating patient.
What is painful about that kind of prayer and bible study? It is time-consuming. It shows you things about yourself that you might not want to see. It involves effort and discipline in order to keep going. We see the pain and avoid it.
It can become as silly as me with the eye drops. I need the eye drops yet I fight off anyone trying to help me get them into my eyes. We are sore or we know we have a need yet we fight off those who are trying to make us feel better.
The problem with not taking the treatment is that we don’t recover from the issues that has led someone to tell us to take the treatment. In other words we stay poorly or ineffective because we don’t take the treatment.
The effect of taking the easy way out
Basically there are two options. One is we stay sick and learn to live with it. The other is find an alternative treatment.
Too many of us learn to tolerate sickness or things that God says we should not have. There again too many of us don’t try and to get the benefits of the the things that God says we should have. There again because we see so little evidence of the improvements that are possible we start wondering if the whole idea is simply hype rather than reality.
What is even sadder is that there are people outside the church who cannot believe that they would get any benefit from a relationship with God. I said earlier that we should be practising on ourselves. If we don’t then we can’t take what we have learnt out of the walls to help others people.
If they cannot see that option then they will look for other ways to have their needs met. One of the issues of the internet is that it gives open access to just about everything you could want or desire. There are many styles of teaching online and not all of them are in line with the scriptures. They might have some ideas that seem similar but when someone says that you need to declare yourself as God you realise that their interpretation of spirituality is quite different to that promoted in the church.
Church folks then say isn’t it awful they don’t want to know our way of doing things. That is pulling your hair out time for me. Think about it if they thought they would get their needs met then they would join in with church stuff. If they think church is a bunch of stuffed shirts rather than a means of helping people why would they bother getting involved.
If the church does not practise on itself and see lives changed then it won’t attract people in. It can’t be the salt and light it is supposed to be. So what is the purpose of the church. Mend its own folk, then mend incomers, then mend communities. There is a lot of work to do!