Intentioning Nourishing Body Life
If you are a follower of Jesus you are part of His Body. And every part of Christ’s Body must willingly make space and opportunity in their life for joyful belonging and connecting. This sharing of our life in Jesus constitutes Body Life. And as such we share an individual and a corporate life and identity.
We need to first become acquainted with and get to know our personal identity, which is who we are “in Christ”. Paul describes this as our “new life”. Our “new” life is hidden (safe and secure) in Christ with God. And he describes this as a mystery with us simultaneously being in Christ and Christ being in us. And second, equally as real and vital, we are ‘baptized’ (placed by virtue of faith) into His Body. Therefore we are forever, moment by moment intertwined with Jesus, His Heavenly Father and his Holy Spirit!
“But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about. 10 But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells - even though you still experience all the limitations of sin - you yourself experience life on God's terms. 11 It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's! 12 So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent? 13 There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. 14 God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 15 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" 16 God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. 17 And we know we are going to get what's coming to us - an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him” (Romans 8:9-18, Msg)
Then corporately we are the Church! This creates a shared identity that is natural, super-natural, universal and historical. Shared identity emerges and develops best when/where grace-filled, loving spontaneity and serendipity is mutually celebrated and nurture is facilitated.
“The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don't, 26 the parts we see and the parts we don't. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 27 You are Christ's body - that's who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your "part" mean anything.” (1 Cor. 12:25-27, Msg)
Both of these realities are incredibly dependent upon successfully creating a Christ-centered sense of family. This sense of family calls forth an authentic, shared, common life. In this corporate identity every individual can naturally and super-naturally connect to Christ and His Body.
“The development of ‘meaningful’ relationships where ‘every member’ carries a significant sense of belonging [and connecting] is central to what it means to be the church.” (Randy Frazee, ‘The Connecting Church’)
This will require an integrous common relational reality and conversation. It is imperative to realize that many haven’t been equipped with functional or healthy relational skills. Instead more of our brethren than we know or care to know come into Christ’s Body and family equipped only with the skills and rules of a dysfunctional family.
The future of the church depends on whether it develops authentic family/community. We can get by for a while on size, skilled communication, and/or programs [that are designed] to meet every “need”, but unless we sense that we belong to each other; with masks off, the vibrant church of today will become the powerless church of tomorrow. Stale, irrelevant, a place of pretense where suffers suffer alone, where pressures merely generate conformity rather than the Spirit creating ‘shared life’—that’s where the church is headed unless it focuses on healthy vibrant community building.
The church can be no stronger than her families are healthy and functional. And if left unhealed and under-developed, the Body will have little chance of creating healthy and shared life.
Dysfunctional families are dys-graced and imploding at epidemic rates in today’s culture and society. Unfortunately, most churches have failed to see them as their own members and families. Too often, they suffer in silence behind a pretentious mask of religious performance. And these people of faith silently languish in doubt and hopelessness. They become the ‘glass’ people the church looks right through; not seeing their incredible potential!
The ability to love God, others or self diminishes in light of unresolved and unhealed life-dominating issues. But, it is equally enhanced (and even exponentially increased) by addressing and healing these issues associated with dysfunctional family systems. Too many Christian families are suffering in silence and the devastation left in the wake of hidden addictions and/or life issues. The inability to experience abundant and joyful living indicates life issues needing healing.
Ministering to hurting and dysfunctional families is a challenging task. The issues and problems associated with family dysfunction (i.e. addiction, abuse, trauma, and woundedness) seem to be overwhelming. It doesn’t matter how long we minister in this field-it remains a challenge that calls us to humility and faith every step of the way!
Each person/family is unique and presents challenges that often require long-term intensive spiritual care. Patience is not only a virtue; it is a must for success and survival. No matter how experienced the leaders, no one formula can be employed to address the problems they face. The presenting and the underlying issues/problems/dysfunction are simply too great and defy conventional methods. But, equally true is that you will be amazed at the spontaneous flow of Holy Spirit in each person’s life.
The antidote to dys-function and dys-grace is grace! Grace makes space and time for function to develop. This ‘grace of God’ is the foundation to recovery in family and community Body life.
“Grace is the dynamic outpouring of God’s loving nature that flows into and through creation in an endless self-offering of healing, love, illumination, and reconciliation. It is a gift that we are free to ignore, reject, ask for, or simply accept. And it is a gift that is often given in spite of our intentions and errors. At such times, when grace is so clearly given unrequested, uninvited, even undeserved, there can be no authentic response but gratitude and awe.” Addiction and Grace, Gerald G. May
Too many of these precious, authentic families/believers have languished in the hurts of their dysfunctional upbringing way too long, all the while sincerely hoping to move beyond these issues to maturity. But ‘sick rules and thinking’ kept them enslaved.
Shrouded in denial; for fear of shame and rejection, these hurting, dysfunctional families (without graceful and truthful healing) will continue 'posing’ as normal.
It’s not that the cover-up is intentional; rather, it is that the church is too often a closed system. The church often mirrors the ‘sick’ rules that keep the dysfunctional family from getting the help they so desperately need and long for.
Here are some of the ‘sick’ rules that keep hurting families from grace and stuck in their secret pain and addictive behaviors. Do any of them ring true to you?
Don’t talk…while pretending that the obvious elephant in the living room (or Sanctuary) is not there—no one in the family/church system confronts what is painfully obvious to even casual onlookers. Even loving confrontation is avoided at all costs, to the demise and potential death of all involved in the silent charade.
Don’t trust…with a ‘sick’ fierce loyalty, the addicted family system is suspicious of the motives of any who would attempt to bring clarity and authenticity to their attention. Having been hurt while placing miss-guided trust in dysfunctional family members, this broken trust is unfortunately projected on God and well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ.
Don’t feel…while languishing in intolerable pain (anxiety and fear) the dysfunctional strategy of stuffing and walling off our painful reality is employed as a ‘sick’ friend who will protect us from further hurt. To deny pain is to allow our hearts to be kidnapped by hopeless fear, never risking the brokenness that brings joy and peace.
There are others, but these three are the foundational culprits that give rise to all manner of dysfunctional family symptoms. Do any of these symptoms characterize individuals and families in your church?
In light of these prevalent conditions and needs in the family, Biblically sound recovery ministry is not optional. Helping individuals and families grow up grace-fully in Christ remains one of the greatest challenges of the 21st Century Church. The following passage provides a Biblical norm for growth. As you read it, ask yourself a very honest question—does this Scripture reflect our contemporary Christian experience?
12 to train (the original word for ‘train’ or ‘equip’ as other translations render it, means to repair and prepare) Christians in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, 13 until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. 14 No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. 15 God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love - like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. 16 He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. (Eph. 4:12-16, Ms)
Everything that is Healthy Grows
Unfortunately, many coming to Christ today were so impaired that if they are not also repaired it will be very difficult to ‘train’ or ‘equip’ them to become prepared to live in the fullness that is ‘righteously’ theirs in Christ. Through the hope of this Gospel intervention Jesus nurtures them to grow beyond past and present infirmities. This is the essence of why so many never reach their destined potential in Christ. Biblically speaking, they are stuck in unhealed or unresolved infirmities.
In the New Testament, the word infirmity indicates a weakness or lack of strength that exists from previously unhealed or unresolved wounding or crippling. The word is rarely used in a purely physical sense. Rather, it indicates moral, relational, character, mental or emotional weakness or a lack of strength in those vital areas of life. Having infirmities is not sin, but they do weaken one’s resistance to temptation. Above all, Jesus understands the fact of our infirmities. (This powerful understanding about infirmity comes from the teaching of Dr. David A. Seamonds, especially as he presents it in “Healing for Damaged Emotions”, published by Victor Books in 1991.)
Thus, infirmities are qualities in human nature, which can and often do predispose or incline one toward sin, sometimes without any conscious choice. The Good News is that Jesus not only understands the feeling of our infirmities, but as our High Priest, He understands the fact of our infirmities…not just the crippling, not just the weaknesses, not just the emotional hang-ups and the inner conflicts, but the woundedness and pain that comes from them.
He understands the shame, the frustration, the anxiety, the depression, the hurts, and the sense of failure. He also understands the rejection and abandonment of self, the loneliness and isolation. He understands the medicating behaviors and the repeated relational failures. He understands the vain attempts to cope and cover up. He understands our secret wars and our many losses. He understands the struggles to bond and remain functional in relationships. He has compassion on the inability to attach to God and significant others. He understands the difficulty to experience healthy friendships. He understands it all and can be touched by the feeling of our infirmities. The following scriptures introduce the healing grace of Jesus for infirmities.
He himself took up our infirmities. (Matthew 8:17 NASB) Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit maketh intercession for us…according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27) In Hebrews 4, Jesus is portrayed as the one “who can be touched by the feeling of our infirmities.”
The scripture further exhorts the church in Romans 14 “that the strong ought to bear with those who are weak, not passing judgment on them for their ongoing struggles.”
The most dangerous life you can live is an independent and/or ignorant one. (Withdrawn and/or isolated—one becomes diluted and deluded by ‘a darkened understanding’ and ‘blind spots’)
Because of unhealed or unresolved infirmities, many in the church are stuck in life controlling issues. We then need and deserve competent, compassionate ministry to aid us to be unstuck and healed. Like Jesus, we must become a community of wounded healers and stop being unhealed wounders. When he heals and matures us, he also calls us to function with the same healing grace toward others. The following passage describes essential, non-negotiable qualities of grace empowered relationships.
“You're left like an infant on a ship out of control in the waves and winds of the storms of life. The fall of the dice dictates while the deceptive teachings of men and their distracting tricks entertain.
Love (the revealed value that God sees in every man) gives truth its voice. In this atmosphere spontaneous growth is inevitable. The whole person is addressed in Christ who is the head of the body, (pictured as a conductor of music, epichoregeo.)
From Him flows the original composition and detail of our design like words intertwined in poetry, they connect layer upon layer to complete the harmony, following the rhythm of His thoughts like footprints. Meanwhile the body thrives and pulsates with the energy of love. Each individual part (portion) finds its full measure there.” (Ephesians 4: 14-16, The Mirror Bible, Francois du Tuoit)
“This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year; doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. (Col. 1:26-29, Msg)
Walk in the profound Grace of Jesus as we Intention Body Life together! Ron Ross