By Dan Crain
ATLANTA -- Scripture is clear: We need to lead honest and vulnerable lives in community, to confess our needs and to bear our burdens together. Yet how do we live out that command without “getting messy”? Or what if we don’t follow His command at all?
As Americans, we like to project an image of “having it all together.” We build walls or summon a force field to insulate ourselves from others.
We all know people who are eager to confess their needs to anyone willing to listen. I have done that, and sometimes still do. That’s emotionally messy. What I have realized is that it takes time – often a long time – to earn the trust and respect of people with whom we share.
And we also know people who guard their hearts. They live with deep, emotional scars. They erect walls around their lives. They don’t need anyone to help them.
So when Paul ends his letter to the church in Philippi, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus,” what does this mean in this context?
Let me offer some of my thoughts from my struggle through this idea:
God is the one who meets needs. I cannot. You cannot. We cannot. God is the “need-meeter.” No one and no thing in the world can “meet “needs like Him. Christ and only Christ can meet our longings for significance, security, satisfaction and belonging.
Yet to the extent that I am individualistic and focus solely on my relationship with God, I still am called to live in community with you. God commands us to live together.
This nugget of Paul’s wisdom especially resonates with me: “Not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.”
There is so much meaning packed into those 14 words. Paul models a special kind of relationship, with this church being “partners in the gospel,” “suffering together” and “sharing of the same spirit.” Then he ends the letter by linking giving and receiving. Giving and receiving can be achieved only in the context of community as we give as well as receive.
So who really empowers the giving and receiving? God. So if I don’t confess my needs to you and pretend that I have it all together, whose help do I really refuse? God’s. He works through us, sometimes despite us, to meet our needs.
God’s intention for us to confess our needs compels us to realize that He is the only one who can meet our deepest desires to belong, to gain acceptance, to know security (peace). With that realization, we can confess our needs to one another, and appreciate that it is a two-way street. Confessing our needs to one another reminds us of where our deepest desire for belonging, acceptance and security can be found.
This is the beginning of Christian community.
Consider signing up for Dignity Serves, a six-week course that helps you rethink the way we serve others in our community. It teaches you to see problems differently and respond in a way that empowers those you serve rather than just meeting their immediate needs.