Church as Community — The Great Collective (Part 3 of 3)

When Paul refers to being “transformed by the renewing of your mind,” he is talking about a couple of things — first of all, he is talking about transformation from the inside out, rather than legalistic or ritualistic works. Doing the “right things” gets you nowhere if it is not empowered by the inner transformation that the Holy Spirit brings. And no one can fake it; a person’s true self will show through every time, even if the person manages to fool himself.

Second, it is not enough to think about the transformation of my mind and ignore what is happening to my sister and brother; the renewing of our mind is the collective unity of the fellowship, and if I ignore my responsibility to cultivate maturity and communion across the body, then I am not being transformed by the Holy Spirit.

There is only one mind among the Christians to whom Paul is writing; it is the collective consciousness that he is talking about — that which allows for unity and fellowship and cooperation and mission. What he is saying here is that if we are not getting along and working things out, we are not showing evidence of the Holy Spirit — period.

There is an African proverb that I have heard Randy Friesen of MB Mission/Multiply mention – “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Our task implies that we want to go far, together. Christians are called to cultivate a unity so deep that even in our diversity, we think together – we are of one mind. Don’t think for a moment that this is easy, because it requires me to surrender my sense of personal wisdom and my set of priorities so that the Kingdom can be served by the group.

We’re talking about a robust vision of what God wants for his people. The call to test and discern is for everyone – EVERYONE. This vision of kingdom discernment has the long term in view rather than the quick fix. It understands that if we do not move forward together, we are not really moving forward — we are not really moving at all; we’re just fracturing.

This kind of decision-making process can be slow, awkward, and inefficient. How are we going to get anywhere trying to hear from everyone? But let’s remember that efficiency is not an intrinsically Christian virtue. I personally believe – think on this and consider whether or not it has merit – that the more people involved in carrying out a decision, the more ought to be involved in making it. That sort of proportionality seems to me to fit with Paul’s words more than the expectation that some ought to discern on behalf of others. Truth does not trump unity, and it does not permit us to fast-track discernment.

The body of Christ is a collective. The individual parts cannot accomplish the work of the whole. The parts cannot live except as a whole. If you cut up a living body into pieces, it dies. If we are separated from one another, what do you think will happen to us?

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