Christian Self-help

Have you ever heard someone say, “God helps those who help themselves?” Why do so many assume this to be a true statement?  And why do we want it to be true?

What in all of scripture would lead anyone to this conclusion?

The Old Testament law is full of special provisions for the stranger and the widow, in other words, those who are least able to help themselves.  I suspect that it might be more accurate to say that God helps those who cannot do anything for themselves.

The Jesus story is all about God sending a Savior because humanity was completely without means to save itself.  There was no self-help path option.

Maybe the key to wholeness is recognizing our inability to pull ourselves up by our own boot straps.

I love the body metaphor that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12, describing the church as a body made up of many parts.  It is together that we become the people of God.  Our faith makes sense within the context of a community.  It is not about me (you) and God against the world.  If it was, Christian self-help would make sense.

The Christian faith is something we live out together.  We are called to help each other, walk alongside each other, cry with each other, laugh with each other and mourn with each other.  It is a faith and lifestyle that calls us to help each other.

This is the good news of the gospel – you are not in it alone.  There is a community of people who are in it with you. So, forget self-help and embrace community-help, it’s the Jesus way.

One Body

One of my favorite biblical images is the picture that Paul paints of one body in 1 Corinthians 12.  I have always been attracted to the Christian idea of unity. As a teen, I spent parts of every summer as either a camper or junior counselor at Lake of the Trees Bible Camp.  I remember looking forward to my very first week at camp.  This was going to be a place where everything was perfect.  After all, this was a Christian camp full of Christian campers.  In my mind, camp was going to be a little taste of heaven.

Then I arrived.

I discovered that camp was not perfect.  There were people I didn’t get along with.  Counselors were occasionally grumpy and unfair.  We didn’t agree on everything.

It was at camp where I started to learn valuable lessons about the body of Christ.  One body includes those who are on different sides of the issues I care about. It includes those who are grumpy and it includes those who see the world differently than me.

The Christian ideas of “one body” and “unity” seem good on paper or in the Bible.  Living out this reality is a pain.  It is much easier to spend time with people who are on the same theological page as me.  It frustrates me to no end that there are so many “true” interpretations of scripture.

I was at a meeting last week where the speaker said that if you give a scripture passage to five pastors and ask them what God is saying, they will come back with six responses.   On planet earth, there are 33,820 different Christian denominations!  I suspect that we are never going to all get on the same page.  This does not change the call to unity.

I am slowly getting to a place where I find that it is the differences that make the Christian faith so appealing.

Is it possible to respect all the differences the 33,820 denominations represent and still be one body?  I hope so.