Someone else gets healed. They tell their story. It’s brilliant. But I’m still ill.
Someone else gets a financial miracle. God’s provision for them is amazing. But my finances still feel too tight.
Someone else gets engaged. They seem so happy. But I’m still waiting for Mrs or Mr Right.
Someone else has a friend who they help lead to Christ. It’s a wonderful story. But none of my friends seem interested.
Someone else. It always someone else. Not me. That’s how it feels to many.
What do I do, when it feels like that?
One option is to reduce my vision of God. I make him smaller. ‘I’ll believe in a more ‘ordinary’ God. A less powerful version of God. A God who doesn’t intervene. I know the bible portrays him as the God who changes lives but that’s not always my story – so I’ll trust my experience.’ This is a REDUCTIONIST response – I reduce my view of God.
Another response is to decide that God avoids me. ‘God doesn’t do that kind of thing for me. He passes me by. He misses me out.‘ Some call this a FAVOURITIST response – God works powerfully in some people, but not in me.
A further option, often linked with the last one, is to blame myself. ‘There must be something wrong with me. Maybe I have too little faith. Or perhaps I’m just rubbish. No good. A loser.‘ Some call this a SELF-DEPRICATING response – I lower my opinion of myself.
But there is a further response. It’s to rejoice in the good thing that’s happened to someone else, because they are part of me, and I of them. They may be part of the same family or the same community, or especially the same church as me. So when something great happens to someone else, this view thinks like this: ‘That’s a wonderful thing that’s happened to us. Isn’t God good to do that for us?’ So someone else’s healing becomes yours – or rather, ours. This is a CORPORATE response.
Before this view is written off as bonkers, imagine what it would take to perceive things like that way? I can only think like that if I really do belong to a body of people. To a community with whom I identify. God has made such a people for us and it’s called the church. Whilst not in any way a perfect community, the church is God’s chosen place for belonging and his number one solution to making the world a better place. It’s within the community of the church that we’re meant to thrive, to grow, to love, to share, to learn, to give, to forgive and to bring transformation.
To have this kind of corporate understanding of the Christian community requires what’s called a ‘high’ view of the church. It’s the view of the bible. It’s what the first believers modelled. And it’s what we’re called to. That’s why the bible urges us to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn’ (Romans 12:15).
To think and live this way is radical and counter-cultural. It’s radical because not many see life through this kind of corporate/ community lens. And it’s counter-cultural because it flies in the face of the rampant individualism in western society that tells us that life is all about ‘me, me, me’. This perspective is about ‘you’, ‘us’ and ‘we’.
It’s hard but good to think corporately. It requires deep humility. But it is the way of life. It’s the way of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’.
Often these wonderful things are signs and wonders that evoke faith.
Thanks for this blog -so true!
LOVE this… reminds me of when in Acts people had all things in common… that’s also counter-cultrual! WE– ours– to share in the weeping and the rejoicing… thanks for this! 🙂 You’re awesome, Matthew.
When people don’t live like this people can become jealous and it creates damaging divides and that’s what the enemy can use thanks for this it’s a great reminder!
Thanks Matthew. I must need to hear this. We were hearing this same message in church today. A community that celebrates is a joyful community.
Reblogged this on longlineofleavers and commented:
Nice challenge here to celebrate the good things happening to other people.
I agree with you that the rampant individualism is an error of the modern church.
And while I agree we should rejoice with those that rejoice. There is also a need to mourn with those who mourn, as you quoted. In many ways we are encouraged to do the former more than the latter. This is the problem for those who are going through suffering is that too often the are told to rejoice with those that rejoice, but there is little space within the context of church with those that mourn. This is born out in our all too often up beat worship. The Psalms, the Hymn book of the Bible, has as many laments as it has anything else, what does that tell us? It tells us that God is not immune to human suffering, it points to a Jesus that still bears the scars and wears a crown of thorns. In order to get the first part right – rejoice with those that rejoice we need to get the second part right – mourn with those mourn. Paul in his epistles encourages people the church to favour weak over the strong, it is not good starting with those that mourn and telling them to get things right, until you have started with those that rejoice and told them to first look toward their weaker brother or sister.