Pastor Nathan's March 2019 Newletter Article
Casseroles for Christian Growth? Nathan Moore, Associate Pastor
We live in an age where self-reliance is built into the ethics of our culture. Ralph Waldo Emerson perceived this back in the 19th century and celebrated it in his famous essay by the same name. Emerson trumpeted: “Whoso would be a man must be a noncon-formist.” Yawn. In other words, strong people depend only on themselves. As another self-reliant soul put it: “The best place to find a helping hand is at the end of your own arm.”
As I read Philemon the other day I thought, I don’t think the Apostle Paul would have much liked Emerson.
In our Wednesday evening service, we have been studying Paul’s little letter to Philemon, a mature Christian in a local church. Early in the letter (4-6) Paul celebrates how God’s grace had been at work in his life to produce so much Christian growth. But Paul knew that God wasn’t done growing Philemon so he prayed, ”and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” (Philemon 6 ESV)
To me, at first, this verse read like a typical Pauline mouthful. It took several tries to untangle it. But what I think he is saying is something like this: “I pray that as you live in meaningful community with other Christians, you will come to know more and more what it means to follow Jesus.” Well, what does that mean? I think Paul is saying that there are crucial matters of Christian growth and discipleship that can only take place in the context of true Christian fellowship. Which of course means, you can’t grow in your faith unless you eat casseroles at church on Wednesday nights. Right? No.
Paul means that God intends for you to live in a particular context—a local church—where other people can really know you and you can know them. It is crucial that you live your life in such a way that other people can actually know you and how you are doing spiritually. God intends to use other people in your life to help you be like Jesus. And He intends to use you to help other people become like Jesus. The question is, are you enjoying this kind of growth? Do you have this kind of meaningful, authentic relationships?
I think Emerson was wrong. We really need other people. God has designed us this way. We are not islands but a body. So let's live the interconnected lives that God intends.