How do you respond when the sermon doesn't apply to you?
Maybe your pastor is preaching about marriage, and you're single. Or you came across an article about suffering, but you're in a season of rejoicing. Or maybe the recent episode of Revive Our Hearts is about parenting, but you've been barren for years.
- Do you roll your eyes?
- Do you groan and complain in your heart about your own circumstances?
- Do you mentally check out and start planning your to-do list, assuming there is nothing you can gain from this particular sermon?
Looking Through a "ME" Lens
These internal responses are ramifications of our all-about-me culture; we tend to be consumeristic and individualistic—even at church.
As consumers, we are always asking: "What can I get out of this?"
As individuals, we ask: "What does this have to do with me?"
Instead of noticing only those who can relate to you, open your eyes and look around. Become aware of those who are different than you, and strengthen one another.
It's as if we are viewing life through a "ME" lens. A lens that completely blinds us to people in other generations, life stages, or those who are simply different than us. A lens that fuels self-love, jealousy, and discontentment. A lens that dismantles the primary metaphor describing the church: a body made of many parts.
"Now you are Christ's body," Paul tells us. Each one of us is a smaller, yet indispensable, part of a whole. What a foreign concept to most American Christians since there is no context for such a corporate view of life. Even the most basic forms of a collective whole, namely marriage and family, are largely disintegrating in America. So it's no surprise that Paul's description of how the body of Christ functions is rarely modeled:
"There may be no division in the body but the members should have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor. 12:24–26).
Additionally, Jesus emphasizes the oneness of His followers in His prayer before being crucified: "That they may be one, just as we are one; I in them and you in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me" (John 17: 22–23, emphasis added). Unity in the church is crucial! It authenticates Jesus as the Son of God to the world!
With so much riding on our ability to work as one body, let's rid ourselves of the "ME" lens and recalibrate our minds with the Word (Rom 12:2).
Looking Through an "US" Lens
- Instead of looking through a "ME" lens, Paul calls us to look through an "US" lens.
- Rather than consumers, we are to be servants.
- Rather than individuals, we are to be one body.
- Instead of only looking out for ourselves, we are to look out for one another.
You are a small and indispensable part of a whole, just like the woman in the pew behind you. She needs you, and you need her. Her successes are your successes; her suffering is your suffering.
Furthermore, "the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor" (1 Cor. 12:22–23). Widows, the elderly, the mentally disabled, those in chronic pain, those in acute grief, and other seemingly weaker members are easy to disregard. Yet we are to show greater honor and pay closer attention to such as these.
We, as one body, are all striving toward the same goal: to believe that Jesus is enough for us. Though this "work of God" (John 6:29) will look different in each circumstance, the underlying struggle is the same: to put our faith in Him.
Let's break down the dividing walls of generations, life stages, and personalities. Instead of noticing only those who can relate to you (ME Lens), open your eyes and look around. Become aware of those who are different than you (US Lens) and strengthen one another.
Listen as One Body
The next time the message doesn't apply to you, don't check out. Listen as one who is affected by the weaknesses and successes of other believers. For example, here are a few ways to listen to a sermon on parenting, even if you're not a parent:
- Ask God for empathy for parents and seek to understand the challenges they face.
- Listen for ways you can serve parents in their calling.
- Learn what the Bible says about parenting so you can gracefully encourage parents to obey those commands when they are weary.
- Pray for your friends who are parents based on what you learned from the sermon.
- Find time to write a note of encouragement to faithful parents.
May this perspective spill over in all directions . . .
- Singles, strive to encourage married friends.
- Wives, strengthen singles.
- Moms, be sensitive to those who don't have or can't bear children.
- Barren ones, support the moms around you.
- Young, befriend the elderly.
- Empty nesters, pray for the college students.
Instead of, "How does this affect me?" Let's begin to ask, "How does this affect us?" Strengthen one another so that "when each part is working properly, the [body of Christ] will grow, building itself up in love" (Eph 4:16). How can you begin applying this to last Sunday's sermon?