Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is the Importance of Community? - Part 3

What is the Importance of Community? - Part 3 ...continued from last week

I'd like to continue our discussion of Community by discussing behaviors that hurt the Community and its members.

We discussed ways to build Community last week. Those methods can make a real difference if we put them in practice and use them consistently. Those alone will not build Community if we do not address activities that hurts individuals and Community. What are these behaviors that tear down Community:

* 1. Unfriendliness
* 2. Cliques
* 3. Envy
* 4. Anti-Semitism
* 5. Thinking better of ourselves than others
* 6. Rushing / snapping
* 7. Not keeping promises
* 8. Vain disputes
* 9. Looking for offense
* 10. Unforgiveness

Let's discuss each of these in some detail, and see how to correct and prevent each of these behaviors.

* 1. Unfriendliness - How do we treat each other? Do we smile and say hello to each other at the Congregation? Do we ask how people are? Do we genuinely want to get to know one another? Do we greet visitors? Are there people you avoid and do not speak too? I'm sure I'm guilty of all of the above at some time or another. We all need to slow down and make sure we greet each other, say hello, shake hands, and hug one another (if you're comfortable with that). If there are people you avoid, make that extra effort and greet them warmly. In doing this we will be exhibiting the love of Messiah.

* 2. Cliques - We all have our friends, and there is nothing wrong with that, but cliques can destroy a Congregation and are not of G-d. Do we find ourselves excluding others from conversations? Are we spending 90% of our time only with those friends? If so, we may be building a clique. Cliques are most destructive when we exclude others from it, limit ourselves just to the clique or in the worst case, and talk about others if they are not in our clique. If you find yourself wondering if you are in a clique, then you might well be. We each have a responsibility to breakout of these artificial groups and spread out into the wider Synagogue. Remember, the Master even befriended sinners; He obviously would not want us in cliques.

* 3. Envy - If love of money is the root of all evil, then envy is a close second. Envy is very destructive and can cause division faster than any other behavior. Gossip, strife, and slander usually result from envy. Are you envious that someone sings better, seems more spiritual, etc. Are you envious a person seems to have more spiritual gifts? Scripture commands us to not be, as envy is from ha-Satan (the adversary). The cure for envy? Be thankful for what G-d has given you. Thanklessness or ingratitude to G-d for what He has done is the root of envy. Thanklessness, ingratitude, and jealousy are very serious sins and need to be repented of immediately.

* 4. Anti-Semitism - With a mixed family of many peoples coming from all walks of life, many of whom are not Jewish by birth, we need to be careful how we speak. Some old phrases from the past can pop up causing unintentional harm. We all need to be wary as certain phrases used by our Sunday brothers. Comments like "the Jews killed Yeshua" are factually incorrect and very offensive. A general guideline to follow is anytime we want to say "the Jews" we need to remember that includes many of us, by either birth or conversion. It includes all of us as Hebrews grafted into Israel. So think about that and maybe it is better to say "our people" instead.

* 5. Thinking better of ourselves than others - This one I suspect most are guilty of to some extent. I confess that I too can fall prey to this. Scripture commands that we think better of others than ourselves, yet many do the exact opposite. This often shows when people enter Ministry. They fail to understand that time is needed to mature; instead they want it all now. This same behavior is seen in marriages. One test to see if you might be doing this: Do you cut people off when they are talking? If you do, you might be seeing a sign that you consider what you have to say to be much more important than the other person. So how do we address it? First, we must be sober in our assessment of our own abilities. Second, we must see and appreciate the abilities of others. Third, we must be willing to let people grow. Fourth, remember the Master's Words about the wedding feast where the person who exalted himself was embarrassed when he was asked to give up his seat to a more honored guest.

* 6. Rushing / snapping - We all are busy, especially right before service, or when getting ready for the Shabbat dinner. This can lead to rushing around and snapping at one another. We need to remember this is the Shabbat, it is supposed to be peaceful and calm. Efforts should be made to ensure all is ready before Shabbat begins to minimize rushing around. We also need to remain calm, seeking the peace that Adonai gives to us. If we do snap, be quick to apologize. If someone snaps at you, let them know gently; you'll most likely find they did not even realize it.

* 7. Not keeping promises - One area that also causes distrust and hurt feelings is when we say we are going to do something and then fail to follow through. I myself am guilty of this one. We need to follow through with commitments as that builds trust and shows caring.

* 8. Vain disputes - Lets face it, we like to discuss with passion. There is nothing wrong with good discussion and passionately expressing our thoughts. It is when it becomes vain disputes that it becomes harmful. We need to learn to agree on the majors and not sweat the minors. That Yeshua is Messiah we agree on. On the exact day He was crucified, that is subject to differing beliefs. I teach Thursday, but if someone does not agree, does it really matter? We need to learn to love one another even if the person does not agree with everything we do or say. Arguing past the point of either side learning or exchanging information is a waste of time. Arguing over the color of the carpet is meaningless. Remember love and unity is important in the body.

* 9. Looking for offense - Unfortunately there are times when people seem to be looking for something to get upset about. This looking for offense takes the form of interpreting words, events, or actions in such a way as to find offense when none was intended. This is the famous example of the person saying, "Good Morning," to someone and the person responding, "What did you mean by that?" We should all try hard to not take offense at another's words or deeds.

* 10. Unforgiveness - Unforgiveness may be one of the biggest causes of mental illness. When a person refuses to forgive another individual, it hurts the person not forgiving more than the person they will not forgive. Unforgiveness is the root of much strife and bitterness. The Master made it clear: we are commanded to forgive our brother (or sister) up to seventy times seven. The Rabbis teach failure to forgive a person who asks your forgiveness is a major sin! If there is a person you haven't forgiven, it is commanded in Scripture to forgive that person. If we don't, it is ourselves we are hurting.

How do protect ourselves and the Congregation from these behaviors or attacks? By loving one another, forgiving each other, and committing to being at Synagogue to worship Adonai. So many times people come in the door with the attitude 'What can the Synagogue do for me?' Is this the proper way to approach G-D? John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country." We should adopt a similar attitude, "Ask not what the Synagogue can do for us; but how we may serve the Living G-D!" Remember, "They shall know you by your fruits" and "By your love for one another."

Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el

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