December 26: Community
Jeremiah 50:1–46; Romans 12:9–13:7; Proverbs 27:1–27
She might be the one we tend to avoid—the member of small group who always states the obvious or brings up topics unrelated to the discussion at hand. I’m always a bit impatient for her to finish speaking so that others can offer more insightful comments, but generally her comments are followed by only awkward pauses. Or, he’s the person we’re tempting to avoid after church and small group because he always repeats the story about his grandkids that we’ve heard more than just a few times. I hope someone else will be there for him. If I’m feeling extra congenial, I might chat with him—always good to earn some kindness points.
I might approach community this way, but reading Romans 12:9–16 convicts me. The list of instructions on building up the community quickly reveals the selfish bent of my motives. Paul, who has just finished explaining that each member has specific spiritual gifts, shows what living in loving community is supposed to look like: “Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor, not lagging in diligence, being enthusiastic in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, being devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, pursuing hospitality. Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Think the same thing toward one another; do not think arrogantly, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own sight” (Rom 12:9–16).
I’m not meant to approach my small group study as a support group to help me work out my problems. Faith communities are familial settings where the gifts I have are meant to be developed and worked out for the good of others. It’s where I’m called to serve people around me—even, and especially, people who are lonely or a little different than me. I can only do that with a heart that is devoted to others, highly esteems them, and looks out for their needs. It’s when I humbly serve that I learn things I didn’t know in passing—the death of her husband and her difficulty in finding the right words to convey her ideas and experiences. It’s there where I learn that his kids barely call, and he’s reciting the same information from the yearly Christmas card. It’s where I help when I can, and pray when I can’t. And along the way, through my service, I may learn a thing or two from people who have gifts I have yet to discover.
Are you involved in a community? If you are, are you actually involved? How can you use your gifts to build up the people around you?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
- The word that the Lord spake concerning Babel, and concerning the land of the Chaldeans by the ministry of Jeremiah the Prophet. Declare among the nations, and publish it, and set up a standard, proclaim it and conceal it not: say, Babe is taken, Bel is confounded, Meroadach is broken down: her idols are confounded, and their images are burst in pieces. For out of the North there cometh up a nation against her, which shall make her land waste, and none shall dwell therein: they shall fell, and depart, both man and beast. In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they, and the children of Judah together, going, and weeping they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us cleave to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that sahll not be forgotten. My people hath been as lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, and have turned them away to the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, and forgotten their resting place. All that found them have devoured them, and their enemies said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the Lord, the habitation of justice, even the Lord the hope of their fathers. Flee from the midst of Babel, and depart out of the land of the Chaldeans, and be ye as the he goats before the flock. For lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babel a multitude of mighty nations from the North country, and they shall set themselves in array against her, whereby she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a strong man, which is expert, for none shall return in vain. And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her, shall be satisfied, saith the Lord. Because you were glad and rejoiced in destroying mine heritage, and because ye are grown fat, as the calves in the grass, and neighed like strong horses, Therefore your mother shall be sore confounded, and she that bare you shall be ashamed, behold, the uttermost of the nations shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues. Put yourselves in array against Babel round about: all ye that bend the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the Lord. Cry against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations are fallen, and her walls are destroyed: for it is the vengeance of the Lord: take vengeance upon her: as she hath done, do unto her. Destroy the sower from Babel, and him that handleth the scythe in the time of harvest: because of the sword of the oppressor they shall turn everyone to his people, and they shall flee everyone to his own land. Israel is like a scattered sheep: the loins have dispersed them: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him, and last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babel hath broken his bones. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel, Behold, I will visit the king of Babel, and his land, as I have visited the King of Assyria. And I will bring Israel again to his habitation: he shall feed on Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon the mountain Ephraim and Gilead. In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none: and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will be merciful unto them whom I reserve. Go up against the land of the rebels, even against it and against the inhabitants of Pekod: destroy, and lay it waste after them, saith the Lord, and do according to all that I have commanded thee. A cry of battle is in the land, and of great destruction. How is the hammer of the whole world destroyed, and broken! how is Babel become desolate among the nations! I have snared thee, and thou art taken, O Babel, and thou wast not aware: thou are found, and also caught, because thou hast striven against the Lord. The Lord hath opened his treasure, and hath brought forth the weapons of his wrath: for this is the work of the Lord God of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans. Come against her from the utmost border: open her storehouses, tread on her as on sheaves, and destroy her utterly. : let nothing of her be left. Destroy all her bullocks: let them go down to the slaughter. Woe unto them, for their day is come, and the time of their visitation. The voice of them that flee, escape out of the land of Babel to declare in Zion, the vengeance of the Lord our God, and the vengeance of his Temple. Call up the archers against Babel: all ye that bend the bow, besiege it round about: let none thereof escape: recompense her according to her work, and according to all that she hath done, do unto her: for she hath been proud against the Lord, even against the holy One of Israel. Therefore shall her young men fall, and none shall raise them up: and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, The children of Israel, and the children of Judah were oppressed i: and al that tok them captives, held them, and would not let them go. But their strong redeemer, whose Name is the Lord of hosts, he shall maintain their cause, that he may give rest to the land, and disquiet the inhabitants of Babel. A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the Lord, and upon the inhabitants of Babel, and upon her princes, and upon her wise men. A sword is upon the soothsayers, and they shall dote: a sword is upon her strong men, and they shall be afraid. A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all the multitude that are in the midst of her, and they shall be like women: a sword is upon her treasures, and they shall be spoiled. A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they dote upon their idols. Therefore the Ziims with the lims shall dwell there, and the ostriches shall dwell therein: for it shall be no more inhabited, neither shall it be inhabited from generation to generation. As God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah with the places thereof near about, saith the Lord: so shall no man dwell there, neither shall the son of man remain therein. Behold, a people shall come from the North, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. They shall hold the bow and the buckler: they are cruel and unmerciful: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, and be put in array like men to the battle against thee, O daughter of Babel. The king of Babelhath heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble: sorrow came upon him, even sorrow as of a woman in travail. Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan unto the strong habitation: for I will make Israel to rest, and I will make them to haste away from her: and who is a chosen man that I may appoint against her? for who is like me, and who will me the time? and who is the shepherd that will stand before me? Therefore hear the counsel of the Lord, that he hath devised against Babel, and his purpose that he hath conceived against the land of the Chaldeans: surely the least of the flock shall draw them out: surely he shall make their habitation desolate with them. At the noise of the winning of Babel the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among nations. Jeremiah 50:1–46
- Let love be without dissimulation: Abhor that which is evil, and cleave unto that which is good. Be affectioned to love one another with brotherly love. In giving yourselves to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, I say, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be like affectioned one towards another: be not high-minded: but make yourself equal to them of the lower sort: be not wise in yourselves. Recompense to no man evil for evil: procure things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you is, have peace with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with goodness. … Give to all men therefore their duty: tribute, to whom ye owe tribute: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honor, to whom ye owe honor. (Romans 12:9–13:7)
- Boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth: a stranger, and not thine own lips. A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty: but a fool’s wrath is heaver than them both. Anger is cruel, and wrath is raging: but who can stand before envy? Open rebuke is better than secret love. The wounds of a lover are faithful, and the kisses of an enemy are pleasant. The person that is full, despiseth an honeycomb: but unto the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his own place. As ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so doth the sweetness of a man’s friends by hearty counsel. Thine own friend and thy father’s friend forsake thou not: neither enter into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbor that is near, than a brother far off. My son, be wise, and rejoice mine heart, that I may answer him that reproacheth me, A prudent man seeth the plague, and hideth himself: but the foolish go on still, and are punished. Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and a pledge of him for the stranger. He that praiseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted to him as a curse. A continual dropping in the day of the rain, and a contentious woman are alike. He that hideth her, hideth the wind, and she is as oil in his right hand that uttereth itself. Iron sharpeneth iron, so doth man sharpen the face of his friend. He that keepeth the fig tree, shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waiteth upon his master, shall come to honor. As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. The grave and destruction can never be full, so the eyes of man can never be satisfied. As is a fining pot for silver, the furnace for gold, so is every man according to his dignity. Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat brayed with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him. Be diligent to know the state of thy flock, and take heed to the herbs. For riches remain not always, nor the crown from generation to generation. The hay discovereth itself, and the grass appeareth, and the herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field. And let the milk of goats be sufficient for thy food, for the food of thy family, and for the sustenance of thy maids. (Proverbs 27:1–27)