21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. – Ephesians 4:21-24
Have you ever walked past someone who didn’t acknowledge you? Maybe they looked right past you or even ignored your gesture. I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. My question is, what do you do with that when it happens to you? I believe we have a tendency to make up “stories” in situations like this. We determine the person is “stuck-up” or “rude”, or we explain it away with the story that they “must have had a lot on their mind”. Whatever the story is, it’s important that we realize that that’s exactly what it is…it’s our story of what happened. The facts are simply that we walked past someone and they didn’t acknowledge us. Responding to that person from the story that we’ve made up is like holding someone accountable for something that happened in a dream…they may have appeared in the dream, but what happened in the dream is a product of our mind…not their actions.
Moving from story to reality is a key step toward authentic community. As a church, we want to be a place of real community. A place where people interact in an open and honest way. Where love and grace permeate our conversations. It’s difficult (read: impossible) to do that when we are living in our stories instead of the truth that honesty brings.
So, taking our example of someone not acknowledging you as they walk by…the story may be that they’re “stuck-up”. How do we move from story to reality in this? We need to get more data. We need to take the important step of going to that person and engaging with them on the issue. It’s not confrontational, it’s honest and direct. Think more calm conversation than angry accusation. Very practically, it might look like, “Earlier when I walked past you, I was trying to connect with you and I didn’t get a response from you. I wanted to ask you if there’s something between us that we need to talk about”. There’s certainly a risk in asking that question. You might get an answer that you don’t want to hear. However, I would submit to you that it’s worth the risk if you really want authentic community.
The verse listed above talks about leaving our old sinful ways of thinking and instead to be renewed in our thoughts and attitudes because as Christ followers, we are called to something more. It’s my prayer that here at ACC we would live out our value of authentic community in a way that cuts through the stories and gets at the truth so that each of us can experience grace in the midst of honesty.