Living in Community without
In response to my last article on non-comparison, the question was raised, “What are the implications for Christian community if we are to consider ourselves strictly in terms of an individual non-comparative system of spiritual justice?”
The question really appears to be, how can we have corporate spiritual life without a socialized concept of communal fairness? How can we have spiritual community if our private covenant with the Lord—not the community’s perceive standard fairness, love, and service as compared among one another—is our guiding reference point? Doesn’t non-comparative privacy in the Lord create isolation that makes community impossible?
I’ve always found it challenging to accurately relate the individual vs. corporate dynamics of worship, love, service etc. Nevertheless, despite the pitfall risk of emphasizing one in a detrimental way to the other, the following understanding can be shown foundationally sound:
—Measuring our proper place relative to the dynamic of corporate agape and service ultimately depends on our responding properly inside the personal dynamic between our own heart and the indwelling Spirit of God—something finally provable only between our own spirit and the Lord’s indwelling Spirit. “The buck stops here.”
Because this circuit for proving our rightful corporate place is strictly between us and the Spirit, it is inherently non-comparative. This means, if the premise above is right, then non-comparison is indeed essential to—not opposed to—healthy spiritual community.
Let’s see if we can demonstrate this more precisely, applying it to the concepts of corporate spiritual agape, justice and leadership.
Corporate Agape & Function
Here is what we see in the Lord’s and apostles’ teachings: The Lord says we are to “love one another as He has loved us.” (Jn. 15:12) This is corporate agape. But this corporate expression is predicated on our “abiding in Me” (Jn 5:4), which is individual, closed-circuited, hence non-comparative. He does not tell us to “abide in one another.”
Whether the illustration is of the vine, or of the body (where we are to “hold the head,” not the members—Col. 2:19), we find a flow of life in which the ministry between the various “branches” or “members” is sourced out of and mediated by each’s direct relationship to the vine / head (Eph. 4:15-16). This makes our personal relationship to the vine / head the final reference point for whether each of us is properly expressing body agape and fulfilling our community presence and function.
We should remember that the Lord’s own love for us was mediated through His direct love for the Father. He did not “directly” love us. That is the model He offers us for loving one another.
Perhaps another Storm Harvest writer said it best when he noted, “The Lord did not call us to build the church. He will build His church.” As much as we desire to see a more genuine spiritual community in action, and though it’s true many are failing their community function under the mantra of “being faithful to the Spirit alone,” it remains that when we remove our eyes from the head to compare how well others are fulfilling their corporate function, we put one another under an insidious condemnation in which neither they nor we can ever “measure up” to each other’s perceptions of being “loving enough.”
In this regard, I find it interesting that the Lord said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” not “Do unto others as you think they would like you to do to them.” We remain accountable on an individual basis before the Lord for how we are executing corporate agape servanthood.
The key point is this: because the corporate expression depends on the private foundation, a foundation that first dies to corporate consciousness and is thus non-comparative, the true corporate expression of the faith must be based in non-comparison.
This dovetails with what I wrote before. As intimated in the previous teaching, our ability to live out the kingdom values of selfless servanthood is actually dependent on our release of direct comparisons / evaluations between ourselves and others—between branch and branch, and between member and member—regarding “their” relationship to the Lord, “their” labor, whether “they” are properly carrying out their community function (like going to church!) and whether “their” calling and its reward is “fair”—or whether “they” are even behaving righteously.
As we are each grounded with a single eye toward Him, self is removed from the equation of community building, enabling us to love (serve) selflessly by the Spirit’s impression and leading toward others, not by our own self-condemning perception of what we should be to others or what they think we ought to be to them—which is otherwise how “agape” is usually measured. True agape can’t be lived out of perceptions of others not sourced in our personal perception of the Lord (ie, “Vine-mediated” perception).
It’s from here that a single-eyed, non-comparative sense of individual justice (private covenant of accountability) promotes a truly humble Vine-mediated corporate justice.
For instance, when exercising church discipline, we realize we can only legitimately do so from a selfless sense of direct conviction before God that we must do so. We don’t do it because “we” have weighed the evidence and “we” have made a direct member-to-member judgment about someone’s bad behavior.
No. Rather with fear and humility, we’re more aware of our own accountability to the Lord for why and how we execute this discipline than we are of the offender’s infraction, the discipline he deserves and his own accountability to the Lord for what he has done. This is how the spirit of non-comparative justice truly works in the body.
There is no other basis of true corporate spiritual justice. Anything else is simply our comparison/judgment of one another in which we hold each other hostage to unmediated perceptions of corporate agape, behavior, righteousness. And as we all have experienced, discipline meted out on this basis serves only to maintain artificial community through conformity, producing further inward personal isolation, not community.
This leads me to a final discussion of non-comparative spiritual leadership. I’m aware of the “false leadership” vs. “no leadership” spectrum of debate in the prophetic. But this debate exists only because of the abuse of leadership. (If leaders were never falsely established, no one would argue for “no leadership.”) The real issue to solve is, what is the source of false leadership?
A significant reason false spiritual leadership exists is that the earthly concept of leadership validated by comparisons is applied to the church. (“So-and-so should be our pastor because he is more mature than / has more experience than / has been here longer than so-and-so.”) This basis for choosing leadership works in an organization, but it does not work in the spiritual family organism.
True spiritual leadership (and every family does have human leadership) simply emerges as a fruit of those who otherwise live with utmost consideration for their own accountability to the Lord for their own conduct. The ambition to lead based in comparison of their ability or anointing to that of others is not in their hearts.
Demonstrated by example and confirmed by anointing, true leadership becomes recognized by the heart already hungry for the same establishment in the Vine. The sheep instinctively do know a true pastor’s voice, though they may fall into the trap of trying to establish it through comparisons.
But in its purest essence, spiritual leadership can’t be established via the kind of social comparisons by which the earth elects its leaders. (It’s interesting that in offering Timothy and Titus criteria for recognizing and establishing leaders, Paul uses criteria by which men are to be weighed only against their own behavior.)
A search for spiritual leadership based in direct consciousness of the community actually breeds the spirit of comparison which destroys community. This is because comparison is inherent to corporate consciousness rooted in itself. When politicians run for office, their entire case is made on the strength of comparisons with others in a bid to appease the corporate societal mind.
So is it by and large in Christendom. But a non-comparative heart born of private communion is the only heart truly able to lead the community of God. Next to the Lord himself, David provides us the best example of this in all the Bible. He was a non-comparative man after God’s own heart.
Despite the way it might sound, a non-comparative system of justice and relationship born of private covenant with the Lord is not contrary to true spiritual community. It is rather essential to it. The reason for this is found in the paradox of spiritual reality wherein by dying to something, we find it.
Before we can function—love, serve, discipline and lead—in community, we have to die to the awareness of the community. Death to the natural awareness of the crowd and even of those closest to us is what the spirit of non-comparison is all about. But in seeking to live in community by living unto the community, we produce the bitter fruit of comparison by which community is killed.
The admonition remains to us from before: Let our eye not be envious because the Lord does what He wills with that which is His own. We are not accountable for one another’s wages in the kingdom. We are not accountable for other’s non-comparative callings and covenant in the Lord.
The sooner we can really receive this, the sooner we may be able to see the kind of community we genuinely long for.
New Meadow Neck, Rhode Island, USA
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created October 20, 2016