“The Christ in their own hearts is weaker than the Christ in the word of other Christians. Their own hearts are uncertain; those of their brothers and sisters are sure. At the same time, this also clarifies that the goal of all Christian community is to encounter one another as bringers of the message of salvation.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Life Together”
This quote was the centerpiece of my sermon on Sunday. Bonhoeffer is describing the desperate need we all have for community… at least the desperate need of those of us who hunger and thirst for a firsthand knowledge and experience of God.
As I have reflected on this quote, it has reminded me of something I believe and yet have rarely put words too. As important as it is to have our own 1-1 relationship with God (and it is), and as important as it is to cultivate that 1-1 relationship through spiritual disciplines like prayer, meditation, and Scripture reading (and it is), a 1-1 relationship with God still has limitations.
God has designed us in such a way where we can only go so far alone.
To use Bonhoeffer’s words, the Christ is our own hearts is often weaker than the Christ that is in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in faith. Of course the flip side is true too – the Christ in our own hearts is often stronger than the Christ in the hearts of our brothers and sisters in faith as well.
That is precisely why we need each other so bad.
There will be times where I am weak in my faith, or struggling with doubt, or badly in need of encouragement. There will be times where I desperately need wisdom or help seeing my problem from a different vantage point. And when those moments come, I need the Christ in you to strengthen the Christ in me. That is at the heart of the vision of community as expressed in the Bible…
[I am doing a series of blogs at the River City website… to read the rest click here]
I am a lifelong Chicagoan, a pastor at River City Community Church, and an author who writes a lot about resisting and confronting white supremacy from a faith lens.
Our church was founded in January of 2003 in the west Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, and is centered on the core values of worship, reconciliation, and neighborhood development. We long to see increased spiritual renewal as well as social and economic justice in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and entire city, demonstrating compassion and alleviating poverty as tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. It is also through the gift of this faith community that I have learned to see the profound historical and spiritual impact of the stronghold of white supremacy, and where I have been challenged to broaden and deepen my understanding of discipleship in the hopes of becoming a serious enough Christ follower who is able to meaningfully participate with those who have risen up in defiance of this evil principality.
The lessons learned in this journey have been captured in a pair of books on race. The first, White Awake, explores the barriers that white people tend to face – white Christians specifically – when we attempt to awaken to and understand white supremacy through a faith lens. I spend a lot of time here addressing the internal defenses that are bound to go off when this journey is taken seriously, and I chart out a path for developing a resilient spirit that steadfastly moves towards truth, justice, and equity. The second, White Lies, further builds out the path for the white Christian who longs to actively participate in the resistance and confrontation of white supremacy. I spend a lot of time here exploring why it is so hard to tell the truth about race, as well as expose the lies that sustain it, within white, Christian, Bible-believing environments. I then propose nine practices that position us for engaging in this task.
On the personal front, my career started in the marketplace, as I was part of three dot.com startups in the 90’s. My vocational path shifted when I joined the staff of Willow Creek Community Church in 1998, and I spent five years working there. I started River City Community Church in January 2003 and have been happily serving here ever since. On the education front, my undergrad was in Business (Purdue University), my graduate degree in theology (Moody Bible Institute), and my doctoral degree in community development (Northern Seminary). On the family front, my wife is a Professor of Psychology, and we have two amazing children (Xander and Gabriella).
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