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ESSAY - The Group

As a preface, nothing of any value comes apart from Jesus. We concede this point absolutely.

No person can be whole apart from the group, but a group cannot be whole if comprised of fragmented members. It would appear this assertion means it is impossible to be whole. However, this is not the case. Being whole is a quest because it requires a process.

The first step is to become an individual. In other words, you have to wake up to reality. Until you do, you will not realize how far you are from being whole, and will of course not seek to remedy this.

The next step is for individuals to gather together into a group. The initial group is certainly not whole. In fact, the force that unites the initial group is the weakness of the members. The group functions to allow one member to lay their strength as a shield over another member's weakness. In this kind of protective environment, wounds can heal and withered limbs can grow.

There is a great difference between the world and the Church as to how to best increase the strength of a group. The world takes a negative approach, killing off the weak members. The Church takes a positive approach, strengthening its weak members. The world considers anything that goes to the weak a waste of resources. The Church considers it investment.

This difference has a profound effect on the very nature of the group. In a group that crushes and discards the weak, everyone is in danger, because they might become the weak even if at present they are strong. This danger annihilates true cooperation, replacing it with shifting expedient alliances of members against other members. The aggression so much a part of human nature is not only turned inward, but amplified by a reward and punishment system that encourages members to prey upon each other, and punishes those who cannot hold on to their 'turf'. Look at almost any corporate environment and you will see this model in all its dog eat dog glory.

In contrast, the group that seeks to increase strength by strengthening and nurturing the weaker members avoids this type of internal division, providing an environment where true cooperation is possible. It is no trivial thing that the Church is described by God as a family, as this is the classic nurturing group. Where adversity shatters the superficial unity of the world's group because everyone attempts to give up someone else to save themselves, the Church absorbs the blow and keeps going, because they are not going to throw anyone overboard. People may betray family members, but family they remain.

To our shame, we have too often been corrupted by the idolatry of the peoples of the land. We have operated our congregations on the world's model of a group, backbiting and contending with one another, striving for position within the group instead of giving ourselves to God's service. This is a tremendous problem in the U.S. because of our culture of individual liberty. Individualism arose to counteract the effects of the world's group model, yet it is our individualism that has kept us from unity within the family of God. We did not discern how very different is God's model of the group, and so withheld our hearts. The early Church was very group oriented. We need to bring in a good dose of this to counteract our tendency to go it alone.

In the Predator album both approaches are represented. The theme of the album is that of the world; kill and eat. The message of the album is that of the Church; forgive as you have been forgiven.

Because of the difference in approach, as well as the Holy Spirit moving inside us, the world will see group strength arise in the Church beyond their wildest imagination as we move toward fulfilling John 17. This step represents the first fruit of brotherly love. If we cannot love our brother, whom we have seen, how can we love God, Whom we have not seen?

The next step requires what can be called selfless selfishness. Each member of the group seeks to eliminate their own areas of weakness and enlarge their strength so that the group is strengthened. It is the motivation to enhance the group that is the "selfless" part of the label, and judging yourself that you be not judged which is the "selfishness" part of the label. If the intent of increasing ones strength is to be better able to take from others and prevent others from taking what you have, then it is mere selfishness.

While large parts of the Church are not even doing a good job of 'strength as shield on another's weakness', much of the true Church is in the infant stages of 'selfless selfishness'. We recognize the Church is paying a heavy price for individual weakness, but far too often continue to attempt to remedy this by telling other members to clean up their act. While brotherly admonition is completely Scriptural, and essential, it is not God's best. When the members of the Body are doing what they are called to do so as not to weaken the Body, what need will there be for admonition?

God's attitude is seen when the disciples asked Jesus if John would ever see death. Jesus asked what business this was of theirs, and told them to put their attention on following Him. He was telling them to move toward being whole and let God worry about what other members were doing. I believe the admonition to, "Be perfect, even as I am perfect", is a call for us to be whole. The Word does not tell us to force our brethren to be whole. In fact, Jesus condemned as hypocrites those who have a board in their own eye trying to remove a speck from their brother's. He went on to state the basic creed of selfless selfishness, which is to remove the board from your own eye first that you might see clearly when going to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Note Jesus did not merely say to get the plank out of your own eye. He also said why you should do this.

This type of individual strength inside the Body is essential to God's plan for the Church. Do you want to be the person who delays the return of Jesus because you are the weakness in the Body of Christ?

The next step is, as yet, quite rare, though it will become the norm as we come together in the unity of Jesus. This step is for a unified group of whole people to turn their attention outward to the lost. It must be said this does not imply we are to put off preaching the Gospel until we have our act together. God forbid, else there would be no one in the group to begin with.

However, what is implicit in this step is that we will not fulfill our potential to be the force for God in this Earth until we operate as the Body of Christ, thoroughly knit together by what every part supplies. If we are not unified the way the parts of your body are, if we are still carnal because there are divisions among us, then the world suffers. Note how carnality displays itself. If each part does not carry its load, does not supply what the Body needs, then the world suffers. To use a bit of jargon, we must be strong in terms of both cohesion and coupling.

The final step is for the group, the Church, the Body, to draw so close to Jesus that we come to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Jesus. In other words, that the Body becomes the Bride.

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