Can we DTR?

Oh hey, DTR means “define the relationship” in case you did not know.

I never actually know who reads these things I write. When I freelance or ghost-write, I don’t think on too much about my ongoing relationship with those readers. It is primarily a one and done experience. But, with all of you beautiful people, I want to know you. I mean come on, when I actually am on here I tend to pour myself out a bit too much. So it shouldn’t be asking too much that we become best friends, right?

Well, okay maybe we do not have to be best friends, but I want my writing to be a lot more than a stop-off once every couple of months. The truth, though, is that this responsibility rests on me. Consistency and communication are the keys to any relationship flourishing, but here we stand at the brink of a fallout because I have been holding my words within. Will you forgive me? Will you give me a another chance? Because I think God might want to do something pretty cool through our relationship, even if it is just you reading what I am sending out into the internet. I want you to know that I think you are super special and are full to the brim with amazing gifts and talents that can change the world. And if the world is too big, know that you have every bit of potential in you to change someone’s world. Just know that my distance hasn’t been because anything you have done; that is all on me. You may not believe me, but this whole being human gets the best of me some days. Well, most days.

I’ll take your continued silent reading as confirmation that you forgave me and we can dive right in.

Let’s talk about accountability today. Yikes, a word that no one seems to want to utter into the vast emptiness of shame and guilt. Take a moment to think about how prevalent the idea of “you do you, I do me” is throughout our culture. Forget our culture, think about it in your own life. Tell me right now that you never wished some one (your parents probably) would back off and let you do things your way. I highly doubt you can tell me that you have never felt that way, even if you didn’t ask the other person to back off.

I am just going to come out and say that every person, every Christian I know struggles to have a healthy relationship with the concept of accountability. And therein struggles to have healthy intimate relationships with humans and with God. I have seen it in ministry, in family, in friendships. A hesitancy to fully engage with accountability because at the core they do not want to be seen as judgemental or even deeper they do not want to be held accountable themselves.

Let’s take a step back and define accountability so that we are all on the same page. What I mean by accountability is the active commitment to hold other people to a standard of living. The tricky part is that true accountability is rooted in mutual commitment between both parties. It is rooted in community. It is messy and sticky. It requires mutual vulnerability and intimacy. True accountability is supposed to exist in every single genuine relationship between individuals, but true accountability should also exist in between communities of people. We are dancing on the edge of something called the “Beloved Community” and how I perceive true social justice, but let’s pull in our focus this time around and just talk about accountability within individual relationships and with God.

I would bet money that you are incredibly ready to be there to support a friend or loved one. But I wonder how ready you are to embrace and receive the same type of presence you are offering? The clarification that needs to be stated is that accountability is NOT just asking questions and listening. Remember, I said it is active. That means accountability exists on the basis that we are able to actively speak into others’ lives and receive the voices of others.

Can accountability be misused and abused? Of course. It has throughout history. But the other end of the spectrum of avoiding accountability all together is nothing more than selfish self-preservation.

A few things that I want to point out:

Our choice to keep others accountable, but not to embrace returned accountability is self-seeking and hollow. You are better to not offer accountability at all. Mutual submission to vulnerability and honesty is how intimacy and growth flourishes.

The point of accountability is not to squeeze people into an image you have created for them. The point is not to make someone feel bad about their actions or lack there of. The point is to love someone so deeply that you refuse to let them settle for anything less than the God-given potential residing in them.

To the same point, you receiving accountability is not about you being corrected or shamed. Shut those hang ups down. Allow yourself to be held accountable so that you can thrive and become the world-changer God has made you to be. It is about you growing into the beautiful and mature creation you are meant to be.

Accountability isn’t meant to be offered or asked for flippantly. It is time-consuming and energy-consuming. Most people only ever offer and receive it from their spouse. Which is something, but our lives are meant to be roots spreading into the world. Like dominos, affect one person next to you and watch the world shift all around.

Be all in. In your relationships. In your love for yourself. You are meant for so much more than you might have convinced yourself. I can see in you the Image of God. That is no small thing. That is everything. Allow yourself to be helped. You might think you are protecting yourself, but you are hurting yourself and those you love.

Remember, true accountability exists midst intimate and intentional community. It is necessary, there is no convincing me otherwise. If you are having trouble finding intimate and intentional community to grow within, write me. Lets talk.

And in true form of accountability. I ask that you all engage with me and keep me accountable. My job is to write and sustain our relationship. Do not hesitate to let me know that I am slacking. I love you too much to continue down that road.

Much Love

BGTF

 

 

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On Disability and Inclusion in the Church

What follows is an edited transcript from a short session I ran at the recent “TASH conference” in Nashville:

As I said at the beginning of this panel, my name is Matt Curcio. The capital letter “C” church has been a part of my life since I was about eleven years old. I have worked in churches, volunteered with ministries, gone to seminary and surrounded myself with Christian fellowship.

While I have been active in many different churches over the years, I have more often than not felt like I was on the outside looking in. But then again y’all are aware that there are still many obstacles and barriers to inclusion, which is why we are gathered here today.

One of the questions I pondered when writing this all down is, what exactly would it look like to be meaningfully included in a faith community?

I want to start with what it does not look like. It doesn’t look like people avoiding eye contact. It doesn’t look like being forgotten about or minimized to just the state of my physical body.

Not being meaningfully included is like the scene in Mark 2. Many of you here know the story of the paralyzed man who was lowered through a roof to meet Jesus.

Something I didn’t realize until recently is that it wasn’t steps blocking the man from meeting Jesus and being a part of something world changing. In fact, scripture clearly states it was a crowd blocking him. A crowd of people, unaware and uninterested blocking this man from a potential that was unimaginable.

For me to feel accepted and welcomed and desired is when a few of those people in that crowd become a community. They stop standing in the way and work with me to get into that house to see what all the commotion is about.

To be meaningfully included means ultimately for others to see my potential when I only see my brokenness. It is to have my name asked and to have my story heard. To be meaningfully included is to be treated like a human.

While for me there are still many instances where stairs are a major obstacle to me being meaningfully included, to me the complacent and disinterested attitudes are the biggest barriers.

It is a rare occasion wherein programs, lessons and buildings are planned with disabilities in mind. Stages are even more rarely designed with the thought that someone with a disability would ever lead or speak on it.

In fact even when I was ministering to students, it was an afterthought to me! I’d plan the lesson, write the illustration and map out the activity just to realize I didn’t even take into consideration my own limitations. How backwards is that? I don’t think that is what Paul meant by being everything to everyone.

But, its not all bad, because if there wasn’t hope I probably wouldn’t be up here speaking. I have been meaningfully included. One instance was so powerful it is still shaking up my life even though it occurred over two years ago

I was working at a church in San Antonio doing full time college ministry. I knew my wheelhouse. College kids were easy. They liked video games, coffee and long talks about Jesus. No problem, I excel at all those things. But there was a Youth Director at this church that became a fast friend. We’d grill and watch every sport under the sun. It wasn’t long, maybe a few weeks after my arrival that he began inviting me to come spend time with him and the middle schoolers.

I was sick to my stomach when he first invited me. I smiled and in my most gracious voice declined. On the inside I was screaming “Dude are you out of your mind? Me, with a bunch of wild middle schoolers, running around being hyper and active and fun? You DO realize I use a scooter right? I don’t play sports, I can’t do this, I can’t do that. This is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The Youth Director then proceeded to invite me every single week for the next month. He promised food and fellowship. Finally after a month of invitations I caved in to his persistence. Nerves a wreck, I showed up and ate hot dogs and talked about Maundy Thursday with ten eighth grade boys.

I thought I would just have to make it through those two hours and then never have to hear his offer again once I explained how I’m not a fit to work with youth.

If y’all could have seen his smug grin when he watched me fall in love with working with those kids. Two years later I’m obviously no longer at that church, but I still get weekly texts from the many high school and middle schoolers. I had no idea that potential was in me.

I had no idea that there was a gifting and strength to my story that could connect to kids that I had grown up unable to connect with.

Side note: Kids, no matter the age, love sitting in rollie chairs and holding onto the back of scooters like a train. Extra side note: get a parent’s permission and have the kids sign a waiver before you do something like that.

But a faith community saw it in me when I didn’t see it. And in this scenario once I got inside the house and saw what the crowd was staring at, it changed my world.

What I want to leave you with today is just a few pieces of advice:

  1. Invitation is at the heart of faith communities, do not be afraid to invite those with disabilities to serve, and to share their strengths. Which of course means you need to invite them into your life so that you may get to see their potential yourself.
  2. This is off topic, but I feel like it needs to be shared. Disability is draining. It consumes energy, health and finances, goodness is it expensive to be disabled. I will be the first to say that I do not want to be seen as a charity case, but those I trust, who know me authentically and intimately and not just as someone to be served. I am grateful to share my struggles and needs with them. It is not easy to support and invest in someone with a disability. But the best things in life are never easy. Get to know people’s needs, but first get to know them.
  3. Finally, become a community. Lay down the simplicity of being a crowd. Make your plans with an array of abilities in mind. If you work with youth, you already know not EVERY kid likes dodgeball. If you are preaching, hopefully it’s not news to you that it doesn’t take having a disability or learning difference to lose focus on what is being said. Every obstacle has an accommodation. And

Maybe accommodations shouldn’t be an overwhelming word, maybe it shouldn’t be such a dirty word.

But an opportunity to let your creativity run wild, to try something new (I know new can be scary), but what if by accommodating for a few you give way to something more potent, and more world changing than ever before?
Thank you.

Much Love

BGTF

 

Who do I become?

I wish the title of this post was the question asked of graduating seniors. Who do you plan on becoming? While an acceptable answer is Chuck Norris, its not entirely what I am trying to get at

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This question is less about meeting your potential and more about coming to terms with who you were created to be, a cherished child of God.

As sweet and heart-warming as that sentiment may be, though, I wonder if we all know what exactly that entails? When I was in undergrad, the world seemed like a bad place, but my campus was seemingly safe. I am sad to admit that I resided in a bubble of sorts, well most of my friends did too.

Maybe you were a commuter or maybe you did everything in your power spend time off campus and involve yourself with the community at large. Either way, after graduating your peer group experiences a mass exodus. Some stay nearby, some move back to their homes and still some move out of state or to other countries. Your community tends to have a few drastic changes after college and if the people in the community does not change, limits of time and energy will surely be a new reality.

For me after graduation, it was shocking how quickly relationships went from being the easiest thing for me to manage to the hardest to cultivate in a matter of months.

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Maintaining friendships became hard and making new friendships in new cities felt near impossible at first, for me. I remember being in a bit of a tizzy for a while. I didn’t understand how being Christian (a supremely relational existence) and being lonely could be reconciled. I knew it was part of following Christ to be in community, but between work and cooking for myself I didn’t know how to maintain healthy relationships all that well. And relationships were only one part of becoming an adult! How could I ever do the other parts?

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Our culture and this world has put a lot of emphasis on being adults. And we seem to function in a society that teaches us how to learn and go to school well, but not always how to live well. And becoming an adult sometimes feels like this, also this is one of my favorite videos ever so I have no choice but to include it:

What I would like to argue is that who you become has little to do with what you actually do. Titles come and go. As I mentioned in my last post you might decide in your fifties to go for a Master’s degree in theology, who really knows. But who you are really doesn’t change. Maybe what you are passionate about changes, but who you are at your essence as a child of God does not alter. And if you are leaning into that identity you will desire to grow into that adopted child more and more. So what does it look like to lean into an identity formed by God? In a child you can often see the best parts of their parents, its not so different with God as your parent. Here are three aspects of who God is that can inform you of the type of adult you plan on becoming. God is:

RELATIONAL

God is three persons in one. The Godhead, Holy Spirit and Christ. In nature God is relational and God asks His children to take part in the same. While I mentioned above about how hard community gets after college, that doesn’t mean it gets worse, sometimes you just have to work harder for it. Be the type of friend you desire to be in relationship with. It took me a bit to realize that I didn’t have to wait for friends to be vulnerable or deep with me, I realized that no matter how scary I can be the one to initiate a trusting and intimate relationship. Check this article for more on the subject.

JUST

God is just. Justice is on God’s heart always. So as a full-fledged adult out of college now, you are fully participating in society and culture (I know its silly because you totally were participating in culture before you graduated). Now is the time to think about what breaks your heart and better yet what breaks God’s heart. Is it Human Trafficking? Disabilities? Prisoners? Racism? The list sadly goes on and on and hopefully more than one of these topics do break your heart. Now out of college, how will you participate (if you aren’t already) in healing the wounds from the sin in this world? God does not settle for a status quo of pain, will you speak for the voiceless (Proverbs 31:8-10)?

PATIENT & FORGIVING

I put these two together because I personally believe they are inseparable. I think true forgiveness is not rushed, but is patient. Think briefly on the patience and forgiveness that God extends to us. I wonder if God’s forgiveness would dry up without patience for us to be redeemed, to draw nearer to Our Creator. The human existence is a marathon, not a sprint and God is in for the long haul as we must aspire to be for the world around us.

If you were to ask me the question, who do I want to become? I would say a man after God’s own heart in every way. A man with the conviction to look evil in its eyes and say, “not in God’s Kingdom!”

Some practical suggestions on how to become a person after God’s heart:

  1. Don’t spend too much time church shopping. Choose one, settle down and begin seeing the brokenness just within those walls. One of the best places to practice patience and forgiveness is within the walls of a church. And allow others to be patient and forgive you.
  2. Try new things. I know, I know you have heard this before, but I have seen my heart ignited in ways I counted imagine because I tried something uncomfortable since I graduated college. I thought I had it all planned out, thats a story for another time though.
  3. Find “adultier” adults that you admire. Those you believe are leaning into their identity designed by a loving God. Learn from them and also, teach those younger than you.

P.S. Check out this awesome resource on life after college from InterVasity.

Much Love

BGTF

What’s Next…?

Chances are you have been asked on a fairly consistent basis even since the beginning of your senior year; what is next? I know that when I was in my last year of college this was the question on the tip of every person’s tongue. Whether a new acquaintance, an old friend or a current peer, people were so incredibly concerned with what was next for me. And of course I sinned against my fellow seniors by asking them the same question. Maybe, just maybe, one of them would have the magic formula for what to do with life after school. None of them did… and most of us seniors, even into the hours right before receiving our diplomas, assumed life after college would go something like the video below:

While the humor in this video is overwhelming the truth is that there is a fear that every person who is transitioning through a phase in their life experiences. That fear is simply the unknown. What is on the other side? And while the transition from High School to college was frightening for most, there was still the knowledge of something familiar. You had been in school for 12 years at that point, another 4 or 5 isn’t too intimidating. But after college? After you have completed the culture’s mandate of schooling. What now?

That’s the question I want to walk through with you over the next couple of blogs. Nobody wants to fall flat on their face, but many do. That is the reality, in some way or another we will all have those moments and it will happen more than once. What I hope for is that you can learn with God by your side and the Holy Spirit leading you how to fall on your face, and make it look graceful.

You may even have your next steps planned out. Perhaps you found a job or have an apartment picked out or even have already been accepted to your first overall graduate school choice. That is beautiful and well and good, but (and I promise I do not say this to scare you) all the planning in the world cannot change the fact that life is unpredictable and life after undergrad is an unexplored territory. What is required of you is to lean into it, experience it and become wholly okay with not being okay. You aren’t supposed to have all the answers now and you won’t have all the answers after graduation either.

The areas of life I plan on looking at over the next few blogs will look into the themes of faith, community, vocation and identity.

What do I do now?

Who do I become?

These are the questions we will lean into. Most of what I share will be from my own personal experience, which is not universal, some voices of friends and colleagues and Ill be sure to throw in some pictures of puppies to lighten the mood:

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Let’s tackle whats next.

Much Love

BGTF

Peace, Thanksgiving and Responsibility

Here are the first three parts of this study of Colossians 3. Catch up by clicking on each part:

 Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Before I start, I have to apologize for the long break between posts. I wrote this whole blog several weeks ago, but then WordPress decided to delete the whole post even though I had been saving it. I lost a 1,000 word post and so I was grumpy and couldn’t bring myself to rewrite it. But now I am back and ready to go. A lot has transpired in my life since my last post, but I will save that for the next post. In this post we are wrapping up Colossians 3 with verses 15-17.

Let us begin with verse 15. Paul has two sentences in this first verse. Peace is the first thing that he chooses to mention. But not peace in our hearts about life and circumstance, but rather peace with each other as a body. If you remember I believe this chapter is truly about doing life with others and doing life well with others. Paul believes that as a Body united in Christ we have access to a storehouse of peace that will not just allow us to live with one another, but to grow together.

And as the next sentence implies, one of the first steps to living in peace is to live with a heart full of gratitude. This is something we each have a choice in. You have the choice every morning whether or not to be thankful for everything good in your life. YOU have that choice. No matter how dimly lit the world seems to you, You choose whether or not to be thankful for creation and your breath, your ability to stand up and walk around. And frankly, thanksgiving, verbal thanksgiving is seriously lacking in our Body of believers today. Start being thankful and make sure everyone knows and hears it.

And this thanksgiving, when we are talking about intentional Christian community extends into your gratitude to God for those you are in relationship with. When is the last time you took a moment just to praise God for the people in your life: your spouse, children, friends, and strangers. And I am not just talking about thanking God for the good these people have brought into your life. But I mean thanking God for the humanity in these people, that make them in need of a Savior. Their faults, their challenges, their short comings, their strengths, their growth, their love, their light. These are all things we need to be coming before God in thanksgiving for. But as a side note we will never be able to thank God for people unless we truly are intentional and get to KNOW these people.

Good, now on to verse 16. This is one of my absolute favorite parts of this chapter.

Whatever you think you know about community, if that knowledge does not include the fact that we ARE responsible to and for one another, then you have to reevaluate your understanding. That “You do you, I will do me” attitude should NOT exist in Christian community. No that does not mean we have to parent each other. But when a Brother or Sister is doing or has done something that is obviously not glorifying to God we have a responsibility to each other. If you do not want to have that responsibility or on the flip side you do not want to be kept accountable. Find a new Body to be a part of. No wiggle room here, friends.

So before I continue I want to look at the word, ADMONISH. The dictionary has two definitions and I think Paul meant both:

-to express warning or disapproval to especially in a gentle, earnest, or solicitous manner

-to give friendly earnest advice or encouragement to

Two parts of admonishing each other with wisdom from God are CORRECTING and ENCOURAGING. Like I said. We are responsible to one another and if we are truly living in the movement of the Spirit, these steps cannot be ignored or overlooked. I really cannot hammer this one in enough.

If a brother or sister is struggling, ENCOURAGE them, they should never feel alone. If a brother or sister is isolating themselves from the gospel and the Body, CORRECT them. Gently of course and in love. But do not just sit back and watch them distort the Gospel and their own worth.

Furthermore, surround yourself with like-minded believers who will not just Encourage and Correct you out of duty, but out of love and thankfulness!

Which bring us to the last verse. And I will let it speak for itself here:

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Parting thoughts:

If you want to be a part of the true Body of Christ that looks like all of these things. A radically different community of love and hope that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Then please, start acting and living like that Church. Admonish away.

Intentionality and selflessness are always going to be key.

Until the next time.

Much Love

BGTF

The “To Do” List

Check out Part 1 and Part 2 to this series on Colossians 3.

Today we are going to look at verses 12-14.

First, though, I want to touch again on verse 11. Because before we move onto the list of what things to bring into genuine Christian Community we have to start with the basics. And as Paul makes it clear, the basics here are that if we share the commonality of Christ we share everything. In Christ there are no divisive labels to box us out from one another. There is only Christ and he unites us. That’s how the body of Christ is supposed to work. In relation and with love for each other. So step one to what to bring into community… You are all in the same boat. You share the greatest commonality in all of history: the love and adoration for the one true King. He is first and he is what makes us who we are. Adopted children of the one true God. And that’s the bottom line, all that remains in Christ are sons and daughters (or daughters and sons if you prefer) of God.

Now that we have the basics, let us dive in,

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

This is how we are to live in community with one another. These are the trump cards we have to bring to the game every single time. In fact our hand should only have these cards to share.

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Dang.

Compassion: empathy, sympathy, understanding, self-sacrificing. These are the things of compassion. When you see a broken friend, do not turn a deaf ear to them. Christ lives in them. They deserve your time and your attentive care. Let Christ’s light shine through you. Allow him to heal through you.

 

Kindness: hospitality, encouragement and generosity for the sake of being generous go such a long way. The pureness of kindness promises no return, but rather a self-giving because you have excess in your heart to give. Christ has filled you to the brim with kindness. You have more than enough to share. You never know how a simple “You look beautiful” a free lunch or an extended hand could literally change the direction of another person’s life.

Humility: You are not the most important person in the room. Lay down your need for attention and affirmation. And stop for goodness sake trying to be right just so that you can be right. Pride has no room in the Kingdom of God and neither in the Body of Christ. Get yourself in check friends.

 

Gentleness: Sometimes people do need a swift kick in the butt. But you better friken know that person like the back of your hand. If you don’t, you should probably save your harsh and abrasive attitude for another day. Gentleness gives you the chance to get the whole story. You may very well only be seeing a part of every thing going on in someone else’s life. Offer the gentleness you desire to see in others.

 

Patience: If you struggle with patience you probably skipped ahead to this part of my blog. Okay now back up and read the other parts… Okay? You ready to move on? Good. If you cannot have patience in community, get out now. It is not always easy to be patient. Especially when you are watching someone you love deeply in a very rough spot. You may just wanna smack them in the face. But most often people need us to extend the same patience that God offers us, His disobedient and wandering children. Like the humility piece, it isn’t all about you. Swallow that and digest that, because when you lack patience you lack humility and gentleness and compassion. It is probably why Paul listed it last.

 

Now that those subjects have been briefly covered, it is time to see what Paul thinks the most important pieces to the puzzle are. Without these two every other piece is a waste.

Forgiveness and Love.

Forgiveness is up first: Paul wants us to bear with one another. That means more than just put up with one another. That means STRUGGLE with one another. Strive on together fight on together, grow together. This cannot happen without being able to forgive each other. I promise you. Because you will get hurt and you will hurt those that you love. Deal with that fact. I do not care how perfect you try to be, we are human and we mess up. If we were perfect we would not need Christ to live in us. We would be good to go. But we are FAR from perfect. We are broken mirrors of the intended image we are supposed to be bearing. So forgive one another. Even when you really really do not want to.

Because, well. The offenses you have brought against God are WAY more horrid and unforgivable than the ones your community has brought against you. Yet He has forgiven you, He has forgiven the whole world. There is no wiggle room here. I am sorry. There may be something in your life you feel like you cannot forgive, but that is utter poop. Feeling does not denote truth. Forgive one another as the Lord has forgiven you. Forgive, like the LORD has already forgiven YOU.

And now for the last piece of today’s series: Love.

Check out 1 Corinthians 13.

Paul says community is a heart issue. You do not do all these things above just because you are commanded to. You are called to LOVE these people you are in community with. Love spurs us on. Love asks for intimacy and it beckons for vulnerability and authenticity. If you have love the rest of the “To Do List” is pie. Bind all of these things together with love. Start there. Start by loving. Do not give me that “Sure I love them but I don’t have to like them” crap. Stop being an idiot.

That wasn’t too gentle I guess. But hey, there is a time and a place for blunt words.

I love all of my readers dearly and hope that we can enter into conversation and relationship if we are not already.

Until part 4 of this series,

Much Love

BGTF

How To Keep Yourself off the Naughty List

Before I start this blog, if you haven’t, check out part one in this series by clicking here. If you already read that post here is a quick refresher: We looked at the first 4 verses of Colossians 3. Basically a good summary of the blog would be to say that we have to work daily to set our hearts on Christ. We have to see those we are in community with as bearers of Christ’s light and namesake. They are adopted children of God, strive to treat each other like that.

So now moving on, let us take a gander at verses 5-11:

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.[b] You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

I like to call this part of Colossians 3 the “No-No List”.

Okay, before I begin I would like to reiterate that I am writing with the assumption that you are already Christian and reading this, but if you are not please do not stop reading. If you are looking for truth in regards to living in community there is no better tool than scripture.

Paul writes in these 7 verses a list of warnings for the early church. Well they aren’t so much warnings as they are pretty much commands.

You may notice that almost the entirety of verse 5 focuses on purity (or lack there of). I’ll call this the selfish indulgence verse. Paul is making a clear statement of what things are destructive to community. Step one is ANY behavior that is self-consumptive. Selfish desire is the first and easiest way to dispatch community.

You want a quick ditch effort to destroy community? Focus on yourself. You can never serve or love another if you are too wrapped up in your own world. The sinful nature of the flesh is coercive and divisive. It objectifies those around us (lust, sexual immorality) it turns friends into means of gain (greed and idolatry).

If you struggle in any of these areas…trust me you probably do or did… You must see these struggles for what they are. They are corruption of the body. It’s the gang green that swiftly spreads from the leg into the heart. The body cannot fully function when we are putting our own desires (not needs) but our own selfish desires before the needs of those we are called to love and live genuinely with.

Paul says it plainly: “Because of these (sins), God’s wrath is coming.” These sins are not a joke. Ill say again, we are NOT meant to do life alone. When we put our selfishness first we are corrupting those around us without even knowing.

Don’t wait for the moment when someone you love needs you and you abandon them for your own gain or addictions to realize that these aspects of your life need to die.

Moving on… Lets look at verses 7-10.

Boom! If you have Christ in your life you are a NEW creation. Stop acting like the old one. Stop pretending to be what you no longer are. The fullness of Christ lives in you. All his mercy, love, forgiveness and hope. That makes you COMPLETELY new. Trust me, those things didn’t exist in your old life. And with the death of your old life should go the death of your old ways.

So if you are a BRAND SPANKING NEW creation that makes Christian community something NEW and UNIQUE. It’s quite powerful and potent when done right.

Let’s continue with verse 8. Paul is instructing the church to let go of all things that directly attack or ostracize those we are in community with. Any language that tears down others is not to be a part of the Body of Christ. Gossip, foul language, anger, slander…get rid of them ALL. They are pollutants and will rip apart community and those you love and who love you.

This is not a moral issue. This is an issue of cohesive community. We are to be one body. Live like that. I feel like I do not even have to go deep into this verse because if you struggle in these areas you are probably already convicted just by reading verse 8. These acts are not life-giving or love offering.

If you aren’t building up people around you, you are probably breaking them down even if you do not realize it. I am deathly serious about this.

You NEVER know who is watching you or looking up to you. I promise that there are people who are watching closely.

Verses 9 and 10 are very near to my heart. I do not handle lying well. I have been lied to before. I have had my trust broken before. This may be simply because of my own experiences, but there may not be anything more destructive to genuine community than dishonesty.

It may be hard, but we can always forgive the other things. The direct sins against each other are easy to forgive. When we lie…and yes that includes deceiving by “leaving out information” we build up fortress walls between each other.

It will eventually all come out, and when it does it will hurt more than you can imagine.

New Creations do not build up these types of walls. These type of scars last for a very long time. Even as I am typing I am reminded of some of my own scars in regards to trust… and the sting is still there.

Thank God for Jesus and his forgiveness because he teaches us how to intentionally forgive every single day. Forgiveness is not something that happens once…it is almost always a process.

Our likeness is to the Creator and He is not a liar. So do not be one yourself. Vulnerability and authenticity and honesty and communication are essential to have ACTUAL GENUINE COMMUNITY. Without these pieces you will be living in a shadow of what could be.

As for verse 11… I will touch more on it in part three of this series, but it is blatantly clear. We are all one in Christ Jesus. Stop labeling each other in boxes that we cannot possibly ever fit in. Love each other for our differences and work hard to see the Christ in each other.

I hope you read and then reread this post. This was the list of “Do Nots” Next we look at the “Please, Do List”

Much Love

BGTF