September 26, 2012

Are You Disqualifying Yourself?

What you believe about yourself controls what you do in life.  What you believe about yourself often influences your spiritual life with God and shapes your world view.  World view is usually defined by categories such as Naturalism, Pantheism, Spiritism, Postmodernism, Theism.  People like to get philosophical, intellectual, political, discussing the topic of world view.  I like to keep it simple and frame it as a person's ideas and beliefs about life, the world and God.  As Christian believers we should embrace many absolute moral and spiritual values as outlined in the Bible, however our personal experiences both positive and negative create the lens by which we view ourselves and our place in the world.

How we define ourselves also determines what we allow ourselves to do in the Kingdom of God.  People who are trapped in a dysfunctional lifestyle seldom contribute to others.  They are often preoccupied with self-descriminating tapes running in their mind telling them that they are too damaged to interact with others. They create belief systems and behaviors that are anchored in helplessness. People who believe they are worthless, helpless and broken beyond repair often become introspective and isolated.  Isolation leads people into deeper levels of dysfunction.

I recommend that broken, hurting people intentionally pursue inner healing and the emotional, spiritual work required to become whole.  I also recommend that they connect and remain connected to a healthy spiritual community and interact with healthy people during their healing journey.  A mature spiritual community that understands the transformation process is a vital component for people who don't know the truth about themselves.

Learned helplessness is related to negative messages that children have heard and believed that influence their self worth.  It creates a sense of helplessness that restricts a child's ability to function at their full potential.    The behavior of these children reflect the labels that have been spoken over them.  Age and time do not remove the stain of labels.  God's love and truth removes everything that is false.
Many adults enter our spiritual communities still dragging the effects of their historical labels.  They disqualify themselves from engaging in community life because their identity is entangled with their labels.

The Apostle Paul says that part of our community life should include encouraging people that are timid, helping those that are weak, and being patient with them (1 Thessalonians 5:14).  He also encourages us to love each other (4:10).  As we grow in the virtue of love for those that are weak we can help them understand that through Jesus they are labeled with truth (John 14:6).  We can help them discover their place in the Kingdom of God and their value to others.  Godly communities should release hopeless people from the darkness of historical labels into the light of belonging to Jesus, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).

September 5, 2012

Community Includes Broken People

What comes to your mind when you think about a spiritual community?  Many people imagine a Godly group of people who have all been delivered from their emotional and social issues.  They perceive a gathering where the people are understanding and relate to newcomers in a way that makes them feel safe and welcome.  A spiritual community is often expected to be free from any resemblance of human weakness because perfection is expected.
    Although Christian communities should reflect the thoughts and actions of Jesus, there are no perfect communities.  Communities are composed of healthy people as well as broken people.  It is easy to invite people into your life that are pleasant, emotionally stable and exhibit a high social IQ.  If we are being honest, it is often difficult to embrace people that bite.
   As wounded people enter our lives and our communities we are faced with the challenge of learning how to relate to individuals in a way that makes them feel honored but doesn't enable their dysfunctional behavior.  There is a tension in developing relationships with people who lack social skills.  Many broken people feel entitled and expect others to fill their emotional and spiritual needs.  They believe that we can cure vacant places in their heart that only Jesus can heal.  This brokenness often manifest in a 'needy' demeanor as people demand time and attention from those around them.  Although awkward people are challenging Jesus says that we should love them.
   We should be patient with those that are weak in their faith (Romans 15:1) and anemic in their ability to engage with others in a healthy manner.  We often restrict 'bearing one another's burdens' to prayer (Galatians 6:2) but I want to suggest that bearing a weak person's burden has a practical aspect which includes embracing them, including them in your life and learning to love them the way Jesus loves them.  When people question why I place so much emphasis on loving unlovely people my answer is simple and repetitive, "Because God loves us."
    There is a spiritual cycle that is rooted in God's love that is applicable to developing communities that represent the Father's heart.  God loves us--we love God--when we learn to love others the way he loves us--we complete the cycle (1 John 4:11).   God's love can diffuse toxic environments created by toxic, broken people.  We can begin to partner with God in creating healthy communities by asking ourselves how we feel about broken-hearted people. Be honest with yourself and examine your heart, do you feel compassion for difficult people, or judgement?  If you think you love God, but you don't love broken people you aren't being honest with yourself, "We love God because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen" (1 John 4:19).