Core Character

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What I have stumbled across is this: the chassis and engine of community is a tri-fold set of core characteristics. They have immense Biblical roots, and they cross cultures, histories, and geographies. I believe that as we press into Jesus, he presses us into these three character traits specifically so we will be equipped to love each other as He first loved us. Of course he leads us into many other traits as well; these three stand out as critically important to the context of community – the foundation on which impactful Kingdom communities can thrive in diverse expressions and environments.

The three core characteristics are: humility, unity, and shalom.

Core Characteristics of Community

Specifically, Humility is fostered and held in our hearts, individually, by the work of the Holy Spirit as we behold God. Unity is held in the relationships around us, not within us. It exists as the by-product of Christian people living out the idea that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Humble Christians living in unity is the proof that Solomon’s wisdom of a “cord of three strands” is actually truth. While we each have the peace of God that transcends understanding, and while unity maintains the bond of peace in the church, the final resting place of Shalom is neither in us nor in the church, but across all creation: people and place, as Christ returns for his perfected bride to reign in eternal power in the new Jerusalem, destroying (not just conquering) sin, Satan, and death.

In slightly more detail:

Humility is perhaps most foundational. As Andrew Murray wrote in Humility, “Man’s chief care, his highest virtue, and his only happiness, is to present himself as an empty vessel in which God can dwell and manifest His power and goodness…Humility is the first duty and highest virtue of man.” (p. 16) God’s three “Almighty” characteristics –omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence—are humbling in their own right, though the humility inspired is generally rooted in “the fear of the Lord” (which is right and entirely appropriate).

However, the humility that fuels community life is that which comes with the weighty understanding that: that the same Almighty God was slavishly slaughtered in gruesome torture so that you and I, broken and helpless, may enter into an intimate relationship with a cosmic King. There have been entire books devoted to enumerating the expansive gap that Christ bridged on the cross. Nothing short of his Spirit revealing the reality of that gap in your own life can properly inspire such profound humility that we would respond as Simon Peter when he says, “Depart from me, oh Lord, for I am a sinful man!” or Bartimaeus on the road to Jericho: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Unity, according to Jesus, is one of the key evangelical tools we have. The local church, it seems, is the primary vehicle God uses to represent himself and his redemptive nature to the world. Even considering that ought to drive us to humility! If our thoughts, attitudes, and actions towards the local expressions of the Body are not fueled by Christ’s desire for us to “be one”, then we are inherently misdirected in our efforts. At best, the world will write us off and ignore us; at worst we will misrepresent Christ to the world as they watch.

Jesus wants to woo his Bride as fervently as he wants to redeem the lost. Imagery of this spousal rescue is scattered all over Scripture. As we are called to the ministry of reconciliation, we are called to it both inside and outside the Body. This means we are equally as called to roll up our sleeves and get dirty inside the church as we are to do so outside the church. And by “getting dirty” I mean we are to take the same self-sacrificing evangelical approach inside the church as we take when revealing Christ to those outside the church. It is not to fight for your own interests, but the interests of others (namely, the most important “interest” of being made right with God).

An often quoted saying in my circle of friends is: “Evangelism is preaching the Gospel to those who are not yet saved; Discipleship is preaching the Gospel to those who are saved.” This isn’t to reduce either evangelism or discipleship to merely preaching; rather, it is to remember the expansive encompassing of the Gospel in everything we do – both inside and outside the Church.

Shalom, or a lifestyle of active holistic peace, is the hinge that swings a broken world around to be a restored world: right relationship with God, with each other, and with Creation. Working for the shalom of our neighborhood is the act of bringing the Kingdom of God here and now. It is inclusive of both justice and justification; and it is key evidence of God at work.

The culmination of God being glorified in the church will be the advent of the New Heaven and New Earth – the New Jerusalem where the Bride will be forever united with the Bridegroom. Shalom, then, is about both people and place: God makes his dwelling among us, and we with him. We, here and now, are called to proclaim peace to the broken world with great boldness and confidence. Justice and Justification share the same root: likewise, we live out the Gospel in both word and deed to a dead and dying world around us.

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