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Believing and belonging

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Galatians 6.1

Because Jesus calls us into relationship with God and with one another, Christian faith is built upon relationships rather than rules. Yet all social networks have their boundaries, conventions and traditions. That what binds them together and keeps them strong. And when individuals push the boundaries, whether intentionally or accidentally, it is natural that those who love them should restore them to the fold.

But what if there is a reason for such disruptive behaviour? Again, the stimulus might be conscious or unconscious. Creatures have an instinct for freedom, as for survival. A characteristic of humankind is that we have inquiring minds and, as we mature, we prefer to make our own decisions. Navigating the fault lines between healthy independence and community spirit requires grace and wisdom.

If our attitude to harmony in the church relies upon human authority, we are heading for confrontation, hurt and division. An alternative approach is to concentrate on faithfulness at the core and allow for God's greater grace and wisdom - and his power - to keep everyone on board including those on the margins, some of whom will be drifting out and some looking for a way in.



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