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Patching Cracks


October 10, 2018

I read a story about CS Lewis years ago in which a friend asked him if attending church is a necessary part of following Jesus. In response, Lewis answered “No” and pulled a coal from the fire and placed it on the hearth. In response, he asked his friend to describe the coal on the hearth.

The answer was the sort of thing you’d expect: hot, glowing, etc. The conversation continued before Lewis turned the conversation back to the burning coal and asked again for a description. This time, the answer was different: cold, dark, etc.

As the coal sat on the hearth, away from the fire and heat, it cooled considerably. He went on to explain that an individual can reasonably follow the teachings and commands of Jesus in their day to day lives individually. However, there is a quality that comes with community that makes it easier to remain focused and to exert energy in following the way that Jesus calls us to live.

This is illustrated well in the New Testament. The vast majority of descriptions of the Christian life are presented in the plural rather than the singular tense. This is because the Christian life was meant to be lived in community with others. I know folks who listen to sermons, read spiritual books, and pray daily.

I am not trying to say that they aren’t followers of Jesus because they don’t attend weekly worship. Rather, I am saying that participation in the body of Christ, which is how the Bible describes the church, is a part of Christian life. In the same way, being in church doesn’t make you a Christian by merit of showing up.

I often hear folks explain that they avoid attending worship because they see so much hypocrisy in the church. I tend to agree that this is an issue. Though most believers I know will readily acknowledge their own imperfections and shortfalls, but we all have blindspots.

One of the great gifts God gives some folks is the ability to spot areas of sin in others and help them overcome. I have several people in my life that serve this purpose. They occasionally pull me aside and tell me I’m messing up. I consider these folks to be a gift from God, largely because I can’t always see my own failings. Be willing to be in community with folks who are imperfect and grow together.

This is very much in harmony with what Jesus taught and demonstrated. He was followed by a group of guys who were far from perfect. He was constantly correcting and guiding. Often, his disciples shortcomings were centered around their own blindspots. The ability to see the faults in others and gently correct them, of course, must be paired with a willingness to be subjected to the same considerations from our peers.

The term used to describe this practice is “mutual accountability.” It is a vital component in the life of Christians. It is a huge part of what keeps us energized in living out the life God calls us to. I believe it was part of the point Lewis was making with his coal illustration.

There are other elements to community, but the fact that people living their lives together and keeping each other honest is vital to growing in the faith.


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