Heart to Heart
Calling Us into Community
Do you ever think about the significance of a circle? Can you recall the simple joy you experienced as a child when gathering for “circle time”? Remember the comfort and connectedness you felt when holding hands with family or friends – whether saying grace or sharing faith, praying for one another, feeling supported and strengthened by each other.
I believe this is what God desires for each one of us by calling us into community with one another. In his wisdom he knows, as people of faith, we are called not only to believe, but also to belong. Simply stated, we need the encouragement and support of others to help us grow in our faith and nurture our relationship with God.
Now see if you can also recall a time when you were excluded or not welcomed in the circle. If you are like me you can vividly remember the times when you felt left out or shunned by others, being chosen last for dodge ball teams, teased because of your physical appearance or bullied while riding the school bus home. The sad truth is that we don’t stop judging or being mean spirited just because we grow up or identify with a particular faith. Very naively, I believed for a long time that if a person was Christian that meant they were a good, kind and loving person. I am sad to say I have learned that this is not necessarily true.
Some have suggested that how people live and express their faith or fail to do so just might be the reason for an increase in negative attitudes towards organized religion in our world. I don’t know if this is the case, but from those standing outside the circle looking in, it is our deeds, not our creeds, that demonstrate our faith.
Over the years, so many young people have shared with me their sadness and feelings of rejection from not being welcomed by their parish community. Whether they felt judged by their appearance, skin color or sexuality, in some way they distinctly did not feel as though they belonged or were welcomed to worship alongside the other members.
I often use the following quote from a song by DC Talk when presenting to people of all ages on the topic of discipleship and evangelization: “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
In a time when statistics reveal that one third of young adults no longer practice nor identify with the faith tradition in which they were raised, it is imperative that each of us take a long, hard look at our role and responsibility in leading others to Christ. Whether you are single or married, young or old, a solid or struggling believer, each of us is called to lead all whom we interact with into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
By our very witness of faith, or lack thereof, we will indeed direct others toward God or away from him. We truly are the visible sign of his love in this world and how we live our lives is the “out loud” example we set for not only our loved ones, but for all those with whom we come in contact.
God did not intend for us to keep our faith to ourselves.
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.”
Look around you. These are the people Christ is calling to himself and he wants them all, with no exceptions. Jesus is depending upon you to be his hands and feet and voice. So ask yourself, would Jesus hesitate for one minute to invite them into his circle of faith?
Pray for the grace to notice and identify all those whom Jesus is calling to himself through you. Let us not only ask what God can do for us, but also what he desires to do through us.
Take a moment to reflect upon the following:
In what ways do I feel welcomed by a faith community?
How do I extend invitations to others to welcome them into my circle of faith?
What specific actions can I personally take to make my faith community authentically welcoming and inviting to all?
In closing, let us be committed to earnestly praying for all those whom God is calling to himself and understand that, because Jesus lives and loves through each one of us, we may be the only opportunity a person ever has to encounter Jesus Christ.