Guest Author - Dountonia S. Slack
If only each of us could stop pretending like we have arrived at perfection, then maybe more of us would stop living in isolated defeat. Sunday after Sunday we gather to worship with familiar smiles, however, we fail to take the time out to really get to know the person behind the smile. Many of us are struggling with secret sins, lingering heartaches, unresolved anger, abstinent but not pure, uncontrolled desires, a wavering faith, unanswered questions, and the list goes on and on. Let’s face it, our spiritual lives are a forest of deciduous trees – we shed or lose our foliage at the end of a growing season. As a result, we do not even know how to pray for one another effectively. Even worse, some of us choose to withdraw/hide/disconnect from the community of Believers because we fail to find others who are just as imperfect as we are.
So, we either sit at home filled with shame because of the inability to put off our old selves or we sulk in disingenuous fellowship on the pews. Christians need each other. Just as “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). The church is filled with imperfect people who with God’s strength/power/grace are learning to follow Him. After accepting Christ, we do not automatically become victorious over our sinful struggles although we possess the power to do so by His Spirit. There is no substitute for the encouragement, discipline, and challenge that comes from the fellow Believers of the church. “The church is God’s intended context for change. God never intended for us to live isolated or independent of other Christians” (“How Can I Change?” by C.J. Mahaney and Robin Boisvert). Which is why we are commanded to “always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of [our] love” (Ephesians 4:2).
This does not mean that we accept/tolerate blatant, willful disobedience of God’s standards. However, this does mean that as we are actively engaged in this process of sanctification – a progressive holiness as we wait for Christ – the church understands every Believer’s battle between the flesh and the spirit (Galatians 5:17). For this reason, “Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). We are to build each other up/amplify/strengthen/enhance one another for the purpose of growing in maturity in order to live a life worthy of the calling given to us (Ephesians 4:1). In turn, as we get closer to God and grow in the knowledge of Christ we see just how filthy/vile/imperfect we really are and have no business pointing fingers at others and walking around with a sense of moral entitlement.
A tree is not dead when it loses its leaves for a season. Yet, if we are not careful, improper pruning/watering/mowing can shorten the tree’s life. Christians must properly teach the Word of God to all in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). Speaking words of growth that deeply water our roots with the wisdom of God. Forests influence climate change by affecting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Christians influence life change by exhorting others to live by the power of the Holy Spirit.