So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Cor 10:31 NLT
I have been captured by two thoughts over the last two months. The first thought has been on the glory of God. I have been captivated and even rebuked. Captivated and drawn to this idea as a hunger grows in me to see the Glory of God cover my life, the local church, my city (Osage) and my kids. Rebuke has come from my own mind and not in a discouraging way but in a positive way. Why have I not seen the value or importance of the manifest, unmatched, character, nature and beauty of God? Why do I allow myself to create and live in a climate that is not honoring of His glory nor conductive towards His glory? Like I said, I do not see this rebuke as a negative but rather as the process of the journey God has me on right now.
The second, thought has been on my new-found love, the city of Osage. How can a small church in a small, rural Iowa town make an impact in the lives of the community? How, can we be a vessel of God’s glory, healing, love, laughter, joy, and beauty? How can we be the Church rather, than a people who go to church? In other words, how can we really be the manifest presence of the Lord in and to Osage?
As these two thoughts continue to compete for time in my limited brain space a very interesting thing has begun to happen. My thoughts have begun to co-mingle. My two thoughts have somehow become one thought: Am, I (are we) neighboring to the glory of God?
There are a great many cultural differences between the city and the rural town. But maybe the biggest is the sense of community. In a large city people are more individualized. If you want community in the city you better be willing to go look for a community. People will pass by at the grocery store, shopping centers and restaurants without ever saying a word to one another. In a city you must go and find your tribe, your people and be willing to work on building community.
In the rural town there has long been the tradition of community. It at times can be frustrating but the very fabric of the small town is built on community. Yes, your neighbor is going to know about you and your spouse’s fight last night. Yes people talk and know one another’s business. But there is also the sense of well being that comes with community. Neighbors spend time together, children play from one neighborhood yard to the next. We look out for one another and talking to a stranger in the local coffee shop is normal.
So, as I ask how can we be Jesus to our rural community, and as I ponder on the Glory of God, I am hit with the question: Are we neighboring for the glory of God? Do our neighbors know us, do they love us, do they have a sense of need for us? Do our sick neighbors look forward to us coming over to pray with them? Does the single mom with two children feel welcomed by you? Are her kids a nuance to you or an opportunity to spread the glory of God?
I have concluded, that a church must be willing to neighbor as Jesus if, it desires to see the Glory of the Lord cover our rural town as the waters cover the sea.
Over the past few years I believe the church has mistakenly pulled away from the task of neighboring like Jesus in the attempt to stand for holiness. But if we are careful with the Scriptures I believe what we will see is that Love is the standard of holiness. Rather than pull away from our neighbors we need to draw close to them, love them, care for them, and be Jesus to them. We need to throw neighborhood parties, set down and have a glass of tea in their kitchens, get to know them and engage them as the manifest presence of Jesus. Then I believe we will begin to see the glory of the Lord in our little town.