“Jesus looked at them intently and said, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible." Matthew 19:26 NLT
“Humanly speaking”…that’s usually the problem. We humans get together and we start pooling our ideas and our ignorance and we start deciding what is possible and what is not. We look at ourselves, we look at those around us,we look at the outside resources available to us, we look at the obstacles and challenges, and we conclude – this is not possible!
The ‘this’ that is impossible could be any number of things. But it is especially true when we talk about the viability of living in relationship with one another based on transparency, vulnerability, trust and truth. There are always a hundred reasons why it's just not possible. We’ll get hurt, we’ll be taken advantage of, we’ll be misunderstood, we’ll get shamed, no one else will go that way, we'll be an outcast, etc.
And so we back away in unbelief…just like the nation Israel on the banks of the Jordan.
We've sent spies into the land that God says we are to conquer, inhabit and inherit. They've come back with stories and samples of the amazing richness of the land – great big luscious fruit, milk and honey flowing and enough land for all of us. And oh yeah, there are some enemies there as well:
…the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight. Numbers 13:28-33
Isn't it always the same? God gives us insight into what He wants, we get encouraged and excited about it and then in the next moment we start to count the cost. We look around to see if anyone else has done it, or is doing it. We think about the risk we are taking. We become painfully aware of our own lack of resources and ability. And we get small…shamefully tiny in our own eyes.
Fact is, in our own sight we are always way too little and feeble and few to enter into what God has promised is ours!
Remarkably, Jesus affirms that perspective...to a point. He says to us, ‘On your own, you are indeed little, and feeble and frail. An from a human perspective, what you have been called to is impossible. It is so grand, so glorious, some completely satisfying and fulfilling that you will never be able to do it on your own." And then he says, "And I don’t expect you to!”
Jesus actually modeled that reality of trust and dependence in the face of inadequacy and weakness for us in His own ministry. We often forget that he was “crucified in weakness.” Not some Hollywood caricature of weakness with a frowny face, downcast eyes and fake tears. This was the desperate weakness that is only experienced when we have laid aside every vestige of strength, ability and natural resource. And in that place of incomparable weakness, he went to the cross for us, gloriously fulfilling God's purpose and intention for his ministry.
For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power.
2 Corinthians 13:4 NIV
Jesus trusted the Father completely, and he was not disappointed. He served through the power of God, he was raised by the power of God, he lives by the power of God, and he will return in the power of God! Humanly speaking, what he did was absolutely impossible, but in trusting God completely, it was absolutely possible.
With men "these" things are truly impossible. But with God is where authentic community has to begin and continue.
Authentic community finds its genesis in trusting God completely for what He says is possible and surrendering to the guidance and enabling of the Spirit to realize it.
This is our garden of Gethsemane…the place where we lay everything before God and surrender all of our feelings of inadequacy, our wishes for some safe and predetermined outcome, and our fears about the future and failure. It’s where we say with all sincerity, “not my will, but thine be done.”
This moment is essential if we are going to have the kind of authentic community that only the cross and power of God can make possible. We have to be willing to allow our wish dream of the ‘perfect’ fellowship or faith community be completely smashed so that something that is the unique and sovereign work of the Holy Spirit can come forth.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer expresses this principle beautifully in his book Life Together:
Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try and realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.
He goes on to say,
Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community.
Eugene Peterson expressed it another way:
The formation of community is the intricate, patient, painful work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot buy or make community; we can only offer ourselves to become community.
Some pretty sobering thoughts given the state of the typical evangelical community today. There are so many earnest believers yearning for something greater that are living in the devastatingly disheartening shadows of their own wish dreams, beguiling illusions and the pretense of stifling organizational structure…yet they are afraid to let go for fear they will have nothing left.
God is saying to us, “let go and trust me!”