Waiting with the People of God
By: Christina Edmondson
We are almost at the end of this devotional journey. I pray you have been blessed and challenged. Most importantly, my prayer is that in all we do, we point to Christ more than any problem, trend or even some legitimately good thing. Together, three Black women set out to share our reflections this Advent season. Vulnerably, we opted to share our thoughts, songs of meditation, prayers and Bible study insights with you, the reader.
We did this together. Togetherness and community must be deep and sustaining values in the life of the Believer. As we reflect on this Advent season, we encourage you to wait for the second advent corporately.
Every culture has its strengths and weaknesses. More specifically, every culture experiences the aftershocks of sin and yet still retains the benefits of bearing the image of God. Creativity, scholarship, and ingenuity are abundant from the East to the West, despite our tendencies to sinfully create social stratification. God’s common grace is present in all the world, even while we might not discern evidence of His saving grace everywhere. Western culture would have us believe that individualization and autonomy are the highest ideals for humanity. “See, I pulled myself up my bootstraps.” “I did it MY way.”
Shockingly, even those who claim to have a ”biblical worldview” and say they rely on a “grace-alone salvation” often sound no different than those who hold to a socio-psychological and political self-actualization mantra. We see the same people who claim a belief in the divine creation story also simultaneously holding to Social Darwinism in their politics, ethics and theology. Even those without spiritual sight can see this hypocrisy, incongruence and self-elevating/protecting ideology set on maintaining personal dominance under the false pretenses of “Christian values.”
There are no “Christian values” that do not look like what Christ values, as evidenced by His Word and life. Where are the values of self-sacrifice, personal piety, obedience, deep hospitality, belonging, integrity and reparative justice? Is it clear that we value the corporate covenant community that Christ died to bring together and make holy? I am referring to the community that we submit our gifts to for the upbuilding of its members. The community that washes us with the Word so that we might embrace true religion (James 1:27).
Women, there is no Christianity-at-large. We are a part of the body of Christ and we tangibly express this blessed gift through membership in local bodies known as “church.” If there are believers around the globe risking life and limb for gathering in the underground church, you, an un-persecuted Christian in America, better find yourself a local church.
I get it. The small “c” church in America looks pretty bleak at times, and it's not the “Media’s” fault. Nope, our long history of avoiding church discipline, correcting “so-called personal sins” and systemic ones, has left devastating and intergenerational effects for the whole society. In other words, the church bears guilt for how its inability to repent harms its members and our unbelieving neighbors.
This is why we must commit to openly, consistently and publicly repenting as Believers. By the way, all sin is communal, systemic and against God. As we can see, when the doctrine of sin meets individualization, we get a truncated theology causing an avoidance of systemic repentance. People end up wounded and jaded. Wounds, scar tissue, and the fear of being wounded can be so great that we become blind from seeing our own spiritual deficiency and sinfulness. It is a great temptation to become so fixated on the ways that we have been sinned against that we forget our own desperate need for forgiveness.
Jesus is born among a socially oppressed people, and yet he is coming to save them from ALL sin. Their sin and the sins done against them. Sanctification is a process, and we are not immediately sinless any more than we are now released from the suffering of being sinned against. Yet Jesus is with us and will be fully with us soon as we are glorified, and His justice that is swift, deep and encompassing reigns forever. It is a complete salvation that includes transformation, grace and justice.
All that has been done wrong will be made right; and on this side of Glory, when we pursue restorative and reparative justice in our broken ways, we are prefiguring the righteous King who will perfectly make all things new. However, this King’s blood speaks for us now and has covered our sins. This makes us both humble and bold as we pursue justice. Humble enough to know that we still need each other. Bold enough to tell the truth to each other.
Humble and Bold together
To maintain what seems like an earthly paradox, we must stay in community, which includes the local church and the extended fellowship of believers representing diverse traditions and cultures. Distance lends to caricatures and dehumanization. Distance draws away empathy and creates echo-chambers of self-righteousness. Distance feeds polarization and creates a space between us so large it seems impossible to unite. But community is still required of us while we wait—which is why grace-extending church discipline, cross-cultural hospitality, tangible joy, deep lament all birthed from piercing Truth must be pillars of our churches.
Many of us would say that we need God, yet we deny God’s appointed means of extending grace through liturgy, sacraments, Scripture and communal accountability. Are you sure that you can claim that you need and love God while considering optional the gathering among the people He died to redeem?
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Questions for Reflection:
How much do I value the community of the Saints, locally and globally?
What am I willing to sacrifice for the pursuit of both truth and unity in the church?
Have I prayed to be healed of “church hurt”? Do I want to be healed?
Consider the ways that you value or undervalue the local church.
Songs of Meditation and Praise