Church, God's Community

Church, Godís Community

by Rubel Shelly

Published in LoveLines (Jul. 26, 1995)

It Defies Explanation!

There is an axiom in math that a sum cannot be greater than its parts. While I donít want to argue with this as a principle of mathematics, I know it doesnít hold in relationships.

I have been in too many groups ó some large, some small ó where things happened that were beyond the combined powers of the persons present. Cowards have become bold. Liars have become truthful. Defeated and dispirited people came alive and found a reason to live.

Something happens in the context of interaction with other human beings that simply cannot happen when people remove themselves from one another. And that is the concern I want you to think about for a moment.

The White House is now located on a street closed to automobile traffic. We are putting up walls, gates, and guards everywhere ó to protect us from one another. We stay inside, watch television, and flinch at answering the phone.

Yes, I know about terrorism at the World Trade Center. I am painfully aware of the bombing in Oklahoma City. And I have locks on my doors. There are reasonable precautions any thinking human being will take to protect herself from harm or his property from theft. But some precautions are unreasonable.

To be so cautious (as the man was in the fast-food place today) that "Hello!" startles and unnerves is unreasonable. To be so frightened (as the woman was at the hospital a couple of weeks ago) that one cannot get on an elevator when it opens to reveal a man already inside is preposterous. To be so predisposed against people of other races (as a man admitted to being on I-65 recently) that he would not accept help from someone of a different color is indefensible.

A scientific study was released earlier this year that showed that people without social and emotional support are more than twice as likely to die following a heart attack as people with caring friends. A study of 194 men and women revealed that six months after having a heart attack, 53% with no social and emotional support were dead, 36% who had one source of support had died, and only 23% with two or more sources of support had died.

Our culture is losing its sense of civility and community. Too many of us are pulling back into shells of isolation. We are losing the capacity to care for one another. God didnít make us to live that way.

It may not fit a mathematical equation, and it defies explanation in words. Yet it is a reality. And Christís church is the one group above all others that must live the reality of community and model it to others.

It is a distinctive feature of faith that people need to see ó and share.

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