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    painting of people talking around a table


    In the church it can be easier to share our possessions than ourselves.

    By Arthur G. Gish

    March 7, 2024

    From Called to Community: The Life Jesus Wants for His People.

    It is ironic that often it is in the church where we are least open and honest with each other, unable to share and deal with the concerns that touch people most deeply. Part of the meaning of fellowship is to know and be known by others. Within this fellowship we should be able to share from the depths of our souls. There should be no pretending. Before God all our attempts at self-protection are worthless anyway. We cannot fool God and it is questionable whether we will fool others either….

    In community we can take off the masks and give up defense mechanisms, as they are no longer needed. In community we can overcome the gap between our public face and private face, the difference between the way we act at home and the way we act with others. We can feel free to share both who we are and what we have, our strengths and weaknesses, assets and needs. We can completely give ourselves to each other.

    painting of people talking around a table

    Carol Aust, Long After Dinner, acrylics, 2017. Used by permission.

    Being open with each other is not easy, of course, and we need to seek God’s help in this. It is easier to share our possessions than ourselves. We have been conditioned against being honest with others. Sharing means being open to change, being willing to die to the old. We have many fears of being hurt. We need to be especially sensitive to this fear in others and through lots of love and acceptance help them to trust. Sometimes people will use their intellectual ability to hide this fear. Gently we will inform them that we are interested in them, and not only their intellectual theories.

    Sharing does involve risk, for as we lower our defenses we become vulnerable to being hurt through being exploited or betrayed. Sharing can be destructive if not based on love. It is nothing to be played with. In community there are many opportunities and possibilities for oppressing others. The human spirit can be crushed to a pulp and the person made unable to respond in any free way. The more sharing we do and the closer we become, the more potential there is for interpersonal conflict, and so the more we need to rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to be forgiving toward each other.

    The Bible does not call us primarily to trust each other, but to trust God. People are not always trustworthy. But we can trust God, who will enable us to love people even when we cannot trust them or they cannot trust themselves. Because of this faith we can make ourselves vulnerable. If our faith in God is secure, we can act in a trusting way to those who are untrustworthy just as God loves us even though we are often untrustworthy.

    Sharing involves not only giving but also receiving. Sharing is a two-way experience.

    Although it may be difficult, we do have deep desire to share and be honest. We want community, not polite compliments and formalities. We want to be able to say something ridiculous without be ridiculed. Through faith in God and a loving community we can take the risk of being open and honest.

    This openness with each other will include sharing our deepest longings, hopes, and dreams. Not only do we need to share them, but also the community needs to hear them. One of the ways a community moves forward is by responding to these longings….

    Sharing involves not only giving but also receiving. Sharing is a two-way experience. Unless sharing is mutual, it leads to paternalism and dependence. Real fellowship is impossible without both giving and receiving, ministering and being ministered to, for that is how the body is built up. Too often because of our pride we want to be self-sufficient and even put a stigma on receiving aid from others. We would never stoop so low as to ask for or admit that we need others. This is pride. Only being willing to give and serve may be a way of keeping others at a distance. In pretending that we are the source of all good gifts, we attempt to make ourselves God. God has given us needs and what a joyous blessing it is to have them met.

    Another aspect of sharing is to build each other up, encourage each other, and give praise where praise is due. It is easy to criticize and say what is wrong, but it takes a special effort to tell people what is right and how much we appreciate them. Conscious effort needs to be put into sharing our positive feelings toward each other. We should pray for each other and the community every day.

    Source: Arthur G. Gish, Living in Christian Community (Herald Press, 1979), 65–68.

    Contributed By ArthurGish Arthur G. Gish

    Arthur G. Gish (1939–2010) was an American peace activist, writer, and member of New Covenant Fellowship in Ohio.

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