The other day, I went to the corner gas station to gas up my car and pick up a couple of energy drinks, which might as well be a pack of cigarettes the way they're slowly poisoning me (I’m cutting back. I swear). I approached the counter, poison in hand, and asked:
“Can I get twenty dollars on pump number...um...”
I look out the window to locate my car and its coinciding pump number since apparently, I can't be bothered to remember where I parked 30 seconds before.
There it is.
“...Pump number 6, please?”
*Scan, beep, scan, beep, keystroke, keystroke, swipe, PIN, enter, receipt, pleasantries, end transaction.*
As I stood by my car pumping my twenty dollars of gas, I realized that I had just missed a real opportunity to live out the gospel through community. I treated the gas station attendant the same way that I would have treated the self-checkout machine at the grocery store or an ATM – merely a machine placed there to process my transaction; not a living, breathing, image-bearer of God whom I am called to love.
If I paid attention to her eyes, would I have seen joy or hurt? I don’t know, because I didn’t have the common courtesy to make eye contact. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that I avoid community constantly.
The rise of social media has allowed me to involve myself in community just enough to feel engaged without actually having to engage in it. A friend has a new baby? I will reach out and share my overwhelming joy by clicking “like.” You posted a picture from your hospital bed where you were awaiting a major surgery? I hope that the heart I gave you on your picture conveys that, although I am concerned, I am trusting in God and praying for your situation. If I ever find myself in the physical presence of other people, I often look for any excuse to get on my phone. I’m on a higher level than anyone I know on Candy Crush Soda Saga.
17th-century poet John Donne famously wrote that “No man is an island entire of itself.” No one is self-sufficient. We have to rely on community for survival. God himself exists in the perfect community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since we are created in the image of God, community is crafted into our very design. We all know we need community; this is not in dispute. So why am I working so hard to avoid it?
Most of the time, I’d point to my introversion. Apparently, I’m not alone. I can hardly go a day without seeing some sort of “Ten Signs You’re an Introvert” list. Being an introvert is not a sin. We run into problems when we let our introversion mirror narcissism. Refusing to participate in community because it makes me uncomfortable is nothing more than an act of selfishness. My discomfort in actively engaging does not excuse me from the command to actively engage.
The Bible says in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV)
“As is the habit of some.”
Ouch! Is it possible for your bible to stare directly at you? Christ said that the two most important commandments are to love God and to love others. Is there anybody you interact with that is not included in these commandments? We cannot live out the gospel if we are not loving others. We cannot love others if we are not engaging. Let’s turn off autopilot and stop coasting through our daily interactions unaware.
Here are my two challenges for you:
1. Interact with intention
Since we are created with purpose, we should act with purpose. Understand that every interaction is a chance to show love. Does that mean we need to hug everyone we come across and tell them Jesus loves them? No. But we should be patient and kind. We should not envy or boast. We should not be arrogant or rude. Does any of this sound familiar?
2. Engage with expectation
Believe that God will use you as a tool to bless others and ultimately bring glory to his name. No interaction is inconsequential. Be spirit-led, ever prayerful, and aware of the investments you are making in the lives of others. Do these things and you will build genuine community and see God glorified.
Full rights and ownership of image belongs to ©Franz Jachim, 2015. No changes were made to the image and was used under the rights of creative commons. Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/franzj/17681861843/in/photolist-sWuauX-wMyuXU-jkHFa-kd4eYW-acmo8E-7opcgZ-aciAkp-7bm9pH-4B7r9-acmi5z-e9xLWR-5LKrms-aciACe-pVR3mN-jL5wD3-acmraN-bYdrs9-id8Jvy-nHziCD-8PLpHy-9vde4C-4LcXs-67Mx5b-73ReBu-4QdRzz-bpj49Z-9eHuXY-5573dE-acixHR-bKaQJc-8GQs8u-pDEyz9-7VzmV3-bCqiy5-698FaY-4fxznz-anpyq-twBJpb-5USyoR-67MvM9-aagvhX-oRjWmm-bwADVq-67Hkma-7Bhecr-uWyuFG-qQU1z-8GMiBk-4PRW7b-acixsx