Archive for April 15th, 2011

April 15, 2011

My time is not my own.

Yesterday Nicole of Modern Reject posted a blog about discipleship.  I’d recommend reading it as it’s thoughtfully written, based in scripture and about something we as the Church should really be engaging in.

For me, it brought up another topic of discussion: how and where and with whom we’re spending (or not spending) our time.

In case you’ve been out of the loop for the last 3 years, I live in New York City [the greatest city in the world].  Everyone is in a rush to get somewhere and meet somebody to do something very, very, very important, you know?  Us New Yorkers are important people.  We can’t be bothered to walk slowly, allow someone to go ahead of us, wait more than one minute for our Starbucks latte to be prepared… you know, that sort of thing.  It just inconveniences us.  We’re very important people doing very important things. </sarcasm>

In light of all of the above, often times our relationships just plain stink.  And I’m talking inside the church, as well.  We’ll hang out all day Sunday, sure… but during the week we’re far too busy and caught up in our own lives and issues to truly sacrifice of our time and invest in each other’s lives.

I’m guilty as charged.  The work day is done and I want to come home and relax.  Some nights my phone will ring and I’ll ignore it.  You know, because I’m too “busy”… watching Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune (I wish I were kidding about this…)  After all, I deserve some time alone to not have to think about or deal with anything or anyone.  (Did I mention that sometimes I just don’t have time to read my Bible and pray?  I know, I’m just so busy with Facebook and Twitter.  Yikes.)

I don’t want to be honest with you guys about this because I’m not particularly proud of it.  Nonetheless, God is gracious and He’s teaching me.  Some days I’m a pretty teachable student, other days I make every excuse in the book and give Him a hard time.  But He continues to teach me, and I pray that I listen and learn and grow by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some of you might be thinking, What’s the big deal?

For me, the big deal is this: My life is not my own.  My time, my money, my resources… none of it belongs to me.  They’re all gifts from God.  And Jesus calls me to lose my life that I might find it (Matt. 16:25).  The Bible calls me to live a life of radical generosity and love and self-sacrifice.  The gospel frees me from my sense of entitlement because it declares that everything I have is a result of grace.  If I got what I deserved, I’d be dead.  So if none of this belongs to me (time included), why do I cling to it?

As believers in Jesus, we’re called to live counter-culturally.  The world says we deserve “me time”.  Our natural inclination is to be self-serving in our friendships.  As Americans, we live in a culture that is incredibly individualistic.  We’re self-centered.

Paul challenges our natural inclination to self-centeredness in Philippians 2 by pointing us to Christ’s example:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:1-8 (NASB)

Notice that Paul doesn’t give us a list saying, “Do this, but don’t do this.”  Rather, Paul says, “Look at Jesus.”  As I grow closer to Jesus and get to know Him better, I am challenged by His love, humility and sacrifice.  I desire to live a life that reflects who He is and what He has done.  His love is challenging me and changing me.

Relationships that are real and powerful and meaningful require our time.  They require us to give of ourselves.  We have to be willing to say, “You’re more important to me than I am to myself.”  Tim Chaddick (Pastor of Reality LA) put it this way in one of his sermons: “Love that doesn’t cost anything isn’t worth anything.”  We can merely give people our time when it’s convenient and easy for us, but it will not produce anything meaningful.  We will remain acquaintances, saying hello to each other at church or Bible study, occasionally grabbing coffee or lunch afterwards.  But what about when life gets tough?  Will we know that there are people we can call that love us, listen to us, and pray for us?  Or will we scroll through our cell phone contacts realizing that we’ve never formed friendships deep enough to feel that we can “inconvenience” one another?

Part of me wonders if there’s an element of fear.  True community calls us to transparency, and transparency can be scary.  However, if we’re in a community of people who believe in the gospel, grace abounds.  Avoiding transparency is never the answer.  I’d argue it breeds more fear, anxiety and shame because there’s always the risk of being “found out”.  Transparency aside, what if someone is struggling and we don’t know what to say?  What if our words fall short?  Friends, our words will fall short.  Our goal is not to fix one another and solve all of life’s problems.  Our goal is to build a community where Jesus is exalted, where prayer is integral, where ears and hearts are open and grace is shown.  Our hope is in Jesus.  Our salvation is in Jesus.  Therefore, the goal is Jesus.  We need to come alongside one another and say, “Look at the cross.  Look at Jesus.  Life is hard, but He is better and He is worth it.”

It’s funny, it seems to be that the solution to the issue of community is the same as the goal:  It’s Jesus.  As we draw near to Him, we’ll be compelled to serve others, love others and invest in others, and as we spend that time in community, we’ll encourage one another to draw near to Him.

Then again, I suppose it should come as no surprise that Jesus is the center of it all.  He is everything.  Isn’t that what this Christianity thing is all about anyway?

There’s a possibility of a “Part 2” of this post based upon your thoughts, ideas, concerns, struggles, questions, objections, etc… let’s get this conversation started:

In what areas do you struggle to build community?  What are some of the excuses you’ve either heard or made for yourself?  What are some practical ways we can encourage more selfless community?  Have you ever been blessed by someone who clearly sacrificed much of their time to invest in your life?  Let’s talk community!