19th July 2018
The sanctifying power of proximity
One of the things I’ve really valued about our church over the years is living closeby to one another. It’s easy to take this for granted but in the next two posts I want to talk about two ways proximity really helps us in church life. Firstly in growth in godliness…
In John chapter 3 Jesus explains that becoming a Christian is “coming into the light” <ref>John 3:21</ref>. By nature we want to hide ourselves in the dark, he explains, because our “works were evil”, but the Christian moves in the opposite direction, they come towards the light, proving that God is at work in them and has given them new life, they’ve been “born again” to use Jesus’ phrase. Moving towards the light is then a good description of the Christian life as we keep repenting of sin as we uncover it and keep trusting Jesus’ work on our behalf as the all-sufficient solution.
What’s interesting in the New Testament is the assumption that this process of uncovering sin and repenting of it is not a solitary task I undertake in the privacy of my own room, rather it’s a community task. In other words, I uncover sin more often than not in relationship, as through interactions with others my motives are exposed, my frustrations are displayed and my selfishness becomes obvious. That’s why Galatians 6:1 talks about church members calling one another to repentance, it’s why in 1 Timothy 4:15 Timothy’s progress is to be seen by everyone and why in James 5:19-20 helping someone struggling in sin is given such a high value.
Now if that’s all true; if Christian growth is repentance and faith experienced in community, then one big enemy to my sanctification is my desire to keep up appearances. My hard-wired fear of exposure. A fear that does all it can to stop people from seeing the real me and knowing what I’m really like. So I come to church with my church face on, I invite people over when I think I can hold it together, and I drill the children before going out so that they don’t show me up. To ice it all off I post photos of my perfect life on social media so everyone gets a good view of a fake me.
It would be wrong to pretend that there is a simple fix to all that but still it’s true that proximity to my church family is a massive help because keeping up appearances depends on distance to work. You see it is difficult for me to pretend that I have a perfect family life if you live next door, or if you see me on the school run, or if you see me running for the bus hassled and stressed. It’s hard for you not to see my selfishness or my moodiness if you see me at work each day, or if we’re in the same gym, or if we eat together regularly.
So don’t undervalue proximity and the sanctifying power of living close by and alongside other church members. Because if your only interaction with your church is after you’ve had 15mins in the car to get your game face on, then you’ll lose out on the sanctifying power of proximity.
Next time: the evangelistic power of proximity!