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Sep 2 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 1, 2019


I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is only one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4:1-6

Intro: Several times in the last few weeks I have quoted Johann Hari

Hari is an author and journalist who struggled with depression
– eventually he realized antidepressants weren’t helping him
• so he began researching other options and interviewing experts
• he found anxiety and depression have less to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain (as pharmaceutical companies have told us)
◦ and more to do with environmental factors and lost connections
– the first half of his book explores how we have been cut off from:
• meaningful work
• meaningful values (for which we have substituted “junk values”)
• status and respect (apart from our position in social hierarchies)
• the world of nature
• a hopeful or secure future
• other people
– Hari tells stories of people who have re-connected with what we’ve lost
• in doing so, their anxiety or depression has diminished significantly
• more so than if they had been taking prescribed medications

If you were looking for happiness, would your chances be better in
– Japan, Taiwan, Russia, the United States, or Britain?
• the answer: Japan, Taiwan, or Russia—definitely not the US or Britain
Hari, “. . . our Western version of happiness doesn’t actually work . . . .”
◦ if you pursue happiness here, you do it for yourself
◦ you accumulate things, status and experiences for yourself
• in Asia or Russia, people pursue what’s best for the village, group, or tribe
happiness is a shared experience
– sadly, in recent years our culture has become increasingly individualistic

We need to add a chapter to the brain’s owners’ manual

We can title it, “Christian Community”
– we have a picture of Christian community here in Ephesians 4
• Paul had prayed for the Ephesians
◦ that God would bring them into his infinite love
◦ and that they would experience the fullness of its dimensions
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ep. 3:14-19)
• now, with the Ephesians building on that love,
◦ he wanted to see the Spirit of God form them into a community
◦ to do this, some old brain circuits had to be pruned

v. 1, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called
v. 17, you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do
v. 22, put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life
v. 24, put on the new self, created after the likeness of God

– Paul writes about Christian community–a lot!
(for starters, see Rom. chapters 12 & 14; 1 Cor. 12-14; Col. 3)
• we have seen that to be a whole person requires neural integration
◦ various brain structures have to be in sync
◦ these harmonious functions must be in sync also with the body
• for the last two weeks we’ve gone over relational integration
◦ after God and close relationships, the next step of integration
is a spiritual community
◦ notice how Paul emphasizes “oneness” in verses 4-6:

The same theme appears in 1 Corinthians: For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-13)
Martain Laird says a helpful image of community is a wheel
“The hub of the wheel is God; we the spokes. Out on the rim of the wheel the spokes are furthest from one another, but at the center, the hub, the spokes are most united to each other. . . . The image was used in the early church to say something important about that level of life at which we are one with each other and one with God. The more we journey toward the Center the closer we are both to God and each other. The problem of feeling isolated from both God and others is overcome in the experience of the Center.”

In mid-July I read through Ephesians
– waking up one morning, someone came to mind
• a person from my past
◦ immediately I relapsed
◦ into old familiar feelings of resentment and disgust
• I thought my heart had been purged of those feelings
◦ but my nervous system was still holding on to them
You know, it is never just the event–the argument, the abuse, the betrayal–that we remember and buzzes in our minds, but our commentary on the event. We have stories about what happened, conversations that we repeat and new conversations that we rehearse, perhaps with the hope of unleashing them on our abusers one day. We do this to try to make ourselves feel better in the moment. And it never works; it just carries the bad feelings forward.
◦ anyway, what I felt was not right – at all
– once I was fully awake and reading this chapter, I came to verse 31:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice
• the very feelings that had been triggered in me!
◦ and then verse 32:
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you
◦ that seemed impossibly out of reach – until . . .
• I sat with Jesus – then my soul found a safe shelter in him
◦ nothing anyone has done to me can touch me there
◦ he holds me in his kindness and tenderness
(he knows my sore spots)
• any bad feelings toward anyone else dissolve in his presence
◦ Jesus again enabled me to forgive – to love

The target we are aiming for is love

The aim of our [mission] is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith (1 Tim. 1:5)
– this is what needs to be written into our brain’s owner’s manual
• love is an integrating energy, a psychological and spiritual glue

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Col. 3:12-14)

– Daniel Siegel lists types of communication for healthy relationships
reflective conversations
◦ that help others listen to their feelings and their bodies
“. . . reflective conversations can create new states of mindful awareness.”
attuned communication – we went over this last week
◦ the neural resonance with another person; the experience of empathy
interpersonal and integrative communication
◦ each person respects the different experiences of the others
◦ this results in forming a link or re-connection between them
◦ similar neural pathways are formed among participating members – we can add to this list Susan Smalley and Diana Winston’s
mindful communication (or compassionate communication)
◦ it looks for information from those involved in the conversation
◦ it thinks through and discusses issues from a positive perspective
◦ it accept the fact that there are “multiple perspectives”
(not only multiple opinions, but perspectives behind the opinions)
◦ those involved are able to describe their thoughts and feelings
◦ each one acknowledges what all the others have to say
◦ each one is a participant in a conversation with other participants
◦ the participants take turns

When I read about the kind of conversations that build community,
– I can’t help but think of our experience with Lexio Divina
• first it brings us together–in prayer
• then it takes us into the Scriptures
• we allow the Spirit to take a word down into our souls
• we hold it within and allow it to awaken what’s there
◦ then we share – our thoughts and our souls
◦ this doesn’t mean we tell all our secrets
lexio divina cannot just “happen” – it requires special conditions
• as Johann Hari has said, “To end loneliness, you need other people—plus something else. You also need . . . to feel you are sharing something with the other person, or the group, that is meaningful to both of you. You have to be in it together.”
• I think Paul states it perfectly:
. . . speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (vv. 15-16)

To speak the truth in love doesn’t mean we tell others,
“I need to tell you something. I’ve never really liked you . . .”
“I was deeply offended by what you said”
“What I have to say is for your own good”
“No one else will tell you this, so it’s up to me”
I don’t know the truth about anyone else!
• I barely know the truth about myself (see 1 Cor. 4:5)
• but what I do know about myself is the truth I can speak
– some people are guarded
• they talk in generalities, “Christians need to be more loving”
• or talk doctrine, or “What the Bible is saying here is . . .”
– in guarding themselves, they make others feel unsafe

To speak the truth in love is to:
– create a safe place – our souls won’t show up if we don’t feel safe
– listen – with our ears and attention of course, but also with body
• what am I feeling? it may be empathy with what someone else has shared
– share – what is yours, what you feel most deeply

Conclusion: What if there’s someone in the community who irritates you?

“I can’t just make myself love someone”
Explore your brain’s owner’s manual – what in you gets triggered?
– what is the commentary you’re brain has written about it?

Try a daily compassion meditation:
“May God let me feel his joy today”
then, for someone you love, “May God let _________ feel his joy today”
then, “May God let my family feel his joy today”
then, “May God let my friends and neighbors feel his joy today”
then, “May God let every stranger I see feel his joy today”
then, “May God let those who have hurt (or annoy) me feel his joy today”
then, “May God let everyone, everywhere feel his joy today”
– at first it may be difficult to bless those who have hurt you
• but praying this prayer every day will begin to change you
• it will help to form new synapses in your brain
◦ and eventually you will be free, well, whole regarding that person
◦ you will have the heart of Jesus toward that person

There will be bumps and struggles
but if we don’t give up,
there are also great rewards

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