We've been talking about something called 'Cruciform Community' in class lately. The basic premise runs something like this - we are blind to our own sin; we have a fundamental inability to see our own weaknesses and deficiencies. The reason for this is because we are sinners.
In other words, my "sin" runs much deeper than occasional lapses in judgment or behavior - it really flows from the core of my being. I sin because I am a sinner; everything I do is fundamentally bent in a certain direction, against God, in my own favor. And I am completely blind to it. I constantly do things to make myself, my actions, look better - when I speak, when I act, even when I pray. I do things for my glory, to make me look better, to justify my actions, to get you to do what I want.
I think most of us have experienced this to some extent - if not in ourselves, then we've certainly seen it in others (sometimes to the point where we wonder "How on earth can they be such an idiot?!? Don't they see what they are doing???").
And that's actually the second part of the equation - we may be blind to our own sin, but we are surprisingly good at seeing the sin of others. I see this in my kids all the time - as soon as one of them so much as thinks about doing something wrong, the Society for the Betterment of Siblings Patrol comes swooping in with sirens blazing:
"Mom!!!! He hit me!!!" [translation: your son, this brother you gave me, just sinned most egriously by daring to touch my delicate personage...]See how easily we see the sin in one another? And yet isn't it amazing how we see ourselves as perfect and pristine - I mean, every time I look in the mirror, I simply cannot fathom how women in this world keep from flinging themselves at my feet. After all, who wouldn't want to be married to someone like me? Clearly, all the problems in my marriage must be located squarely in my wife, who just doesn't realize how good she's got it.
"Oh yeah, well she was bugging me" [rebuttal: look, I had a good reason - this creepy little wench is sitting here nagging me like a leaky faucet, trying to be a boss and exert her authority over me...]
"Well he wasn't cleaning up his room like you told him to" [ooh, the trump card: mom, I'm just trying to enforce the policy you yourself laid down; I am actually helping by my bossing...]
Yeah, right. What's scary here, is that 99.9% of you reading this post know exactly what I'm talking about here. You can identify with these comments because you have experienced them yourself. Sure, the particulars may vary, but underneath, we are all singing this same old song.
We are blind to our own flaws. And yet we actually have a capacity to see the blindness of others, we can see their shortcomings quite well (and guess what, as we begin to study Scripture you will actually get better at identifying problems in others - which can be extremely dangerous if used wrongly).
So how does all this connect to community? The bottom line is that we all need one another to help correct our blindness. Hebrews 10:24-25 says "Don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encourage one another..." This is talking about much more than attending church on Sundays. We gather as community in order to encourage one another to be more like Christ.
But there's more to it than that. Hebrews 10:26-31 goes on to say, "BUT, if we go on sinning..." and then it launches into this really scary warning about falling away from God, a warning which concludes with these ominous words: "We know who said 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay'... It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Cruciform community is brothers and sisters who are blind to their own sin, but who can nevertheless see the sin in the lives of one another. And so we are called as brothers and sisters in this family of God to help each other see our own blindness.
This means we need to be willing to point out problems. And the better we know God, Scripture, Christ, and the gospel, the better we will get at seeing blindness - both in our lives and in the lives of others. But we point out that blindness in others not just because we see it, but because we also see the living God who redeemed us, we see him. And we invite them to do the same thing for us.
So we have a great responsibility, because we have been called by God to speak into one another's lives - we are authorized, even expected, to do so. And yet at the same time, we are called to great humility, because we know that we ourselves are blind in many areas ourselves. But that's the whole point - we need one another to deal with our own blindness. We need fellow believers to point us to the cross; we need them to show us where we still need to die to ourselves. That's the essence of Cruciform Community.