At this year’s Genesis Retreat at Camp Vanasek, we spent time reflecting on the first part of our mission statement to remind ourselves who we are and why we exist.
“We live intentionally together giving of ourselves to create a close-knit, Jesus-centered community…”
We live intentionally. We didn’t trip into this, we choose to do this by design, on purpose, deliberately.
We live together. We can’t do it alone- we need each other.
We give of ourselves. We voluntarily bring our personalities and our stories, as well as our strengths to build each other up, and our weaknesses to be refined.
We create a community. This is a dedicated and collaborative effort. It takes work!
We are close-knit. Familial, thick, tight, together.
We are Jesus-centered. Regardless of all else, Jesus is the origin point, the middle, the one we derive our identify from, and are concentrated around.
But why do we do this?
David Janzen says intentional Christian communities “are local experiments the world can see of what the Sermon on the Mount looks like among a group of people sold out for Jesus.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces a new way of life that moves us out of the Kingdom of the World and into the Kingdom of God. As he contrasts these two kingdoms, Jesus repeats over and over, “You have heard it said … but I say ...” He uses these phrases six times! He is establishing that the Kingdom of God is different than we thought. We have heard it said that we are not to murder, but Jesus says if we are angry at someone we are subject to judgement. We have heard it said that we are not to commit adultery, but Jesus says if we lust we have committed adultery in our heart. We have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but Jesus says to love our enemies.
Our opportunity at Genesis is to be a living demonstration of this now and future reality that Jesus describes.
We have heard the world say many things, but in intentional community Jesus calls us instead to a life of following what he says.
For instance, we have heard it said:
If you’re upset with someone it’s okay to vent to your friends- it’s healthy to express your emotions!
If some people make you feel uncomfortable, just hang out with people who are easier to deal with.
If what is asked of you is stretching, or requires sacrifice, or is hard, let someone else do it.
Your safety and security are in your jobs and your money and your padlocks.
If it makes you feel good it must be good.
If you have something to say, speak your mind- it’s good to make sure everyone knows what you really think!
You have to take care of yourself first.
There’s not enough to go around.
If you worry about things ahead of time, you’ll protect yourself.
Go ahead and subtly slip into conversation what a boss you are at doing good deeds.
Your worth is in what you have or what you do.
Work yourself into the ground- the busier, the better!
Feel free to pass value judgments on everyone and everything they do.
BUT Jesus says:
Love the least of these
Put others above yourselves
Serve one another
Your Heavenly Father will provide
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry
Do everything without complaining or arguing
Don’t do your good deeds to be praised by others
Leave judgement to God
Come to me for rest
Each of you is beloved by God.
This is the why. To create a place where we live not by “You have heard it said…” but by Jesus’ words, “I say…”