I just finished a 2 month long study with some incredible ladies at The Marcella Project. We were talking about being made in the image of God – ALL of us. Last night we gathered for an extra night of study that The Marcella Project’s founder Jackie Roese calls a “Salon.” (No, we weren’t getting our hair done. It’s a throwback to the days in France when women were not allowed to be formally educated, but would gather in their homes to educate each other. We’ve come a long, long way.)

This particular Salon focused on the importance of relationships between women; specifically the tendency to compare and compete – attributes of relationships strongly driven by fear and envy.

Waking up this morning I decided to take a break from my readings on scripture and sexuality. Instead I was just going to read Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a usually a breath of fresh air; like arms reaching out from 2000 years ago and giving me a hug from a loving, caring big brother.

I didn’t make it past the first two words: “Paul and…”

The ruins of the Basilica at Philippi. 

I’ve read them literally a few hundred times, but never paid attention to them. I flipped through the first verses of all Paul’s letters to the various churches that we regard as scripture and noticed that of the 8 such letters, only two were accredited to Paul alone.

Paul was in community, writing to communities. As I’ve studied several of the issues that Paul addresses in the letters, the theme of unity in the church has emerged as a major concern of his ministry: more to the point the unity between the Jewish and Gentile believers. The things he focuses on (diet and circumcision, for example) were major differences between the two cultures. The things he addresses but does not urge any changes (such as gender roles) were issues on which the two cultures were already very much aligned.

If Paul where in America today what would he be writing to my church about? What about your church? What is damaging unity in the body of Christ? Who are you in community with that will show the unity that God desires for us; that Christ specifically prayed for (see John 17)?

And more importantly, if you were writing a letter who would your “and…” be? It might be a spouse, but maybe not. Who has your back and whose back to you have, like Timothy and Paul had each other’s? I know that many of us have recently walked away from support networks as a result of our stand for ourselves or for people we love. Some of those networks were a lifetime in the making.

Let’s not let fear or discouragement keep us from the joy of being in community. Rebuild that inner circle. Find your “and…” and be the “…and” to someone.

I have an idea it will be life-saving for us and perhaps many others.

(Please take a moment to visit the “My Book” tab on the blog. Help me get the book published with your financial gift and/or pre-ordering a copy of “Shattering Masks”!) 

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