We live in an interesting time as Christians, a time where we are torn between having a private faith that guides our personal actions and still feeling pulled to the community of the people of God as one body. We're stuck between a world that says what you believe, and how you act based upon those beliefs, is your own personal choice and a church that cries out as one body, as children of God.
It's easy for us to take the world's view on this one, far too easy. It's easy for us to think that how we live our lives is really up to us, and if we choose to live them on account of God's love, well, then, that's our choice. But what is most scary about this is that we can choose for ourselves the world's wisdom at the cost of the church, and we don't even realize what's happening.
You see, there are many among us (heartbreakingly many) who believe in the promises of God. They believe in His commandments. They believe in His covenant. They will tell you full out that God pours out His blessings on His faithful people and that the height of the Christian life is living in obedience. And at the very same time, they hold the belief that what they personally do, how they personally live, doesn't actually matter all that much. That they don't have to live a faithful, obedient life. That God's not really expecting that from them, and that whatever consequences might come from that only affect them.
But not really because, you know, God is love. And such.
But the truth is that the church suffers more from this kind of person than she does from anyone outside of the faith, and she always has. The most detrimental person to the people of God is the man who believes that what he does doesn't matter to the community.
The actions of individuals within God's people always has, and still does, have massive implications for all of them.
We've seen this again and again in the Old Testament, when men sinned and no one knew about it, but Israel lost battles anyway. Famously, we might think of Achan, who took contraband and buried it in his own house. Israel lost a very important battle that they were sure the Lord had promised them to win, and they couldn't figure it out. When push came to shove, it turns out that Achan was to blame for the entire people's defeat. One man. One man who didn't think his actions mattered to anyone but himself (and therefore thought he could profit off of them without any repercussions).
Deuteronomy 29 is clear about this, as well. Moses walks Israel through the covenant one more time, and he talks in very plain terms about men who confirm the covenant and agree to it, but then think, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way." (v. 19) After all, they affirm everything about God they are supposed to affirm...they just don't live it. They believe in the covenant and avow it; they just don't live it. Surely, God will commend them for their belief, no matter what their actions.
But Deuteronomy says not only is that man curse, but his tribe is cursed. His people will suffer defeat. The curses of God will come down upon them, upon all of them, because of the sin of this one man. Because of the arrogance of this one man. Because of the mockery this one man makes of what it means to believe in God.
Today's church suffers the same. Today's church struggles under the weight of too many Christians who sing Amazing Grace but don't live by it, who affirm God's promises but don't believe in them, who quote God's commands but don't follow them. Too many Christians who believe that what they decide to do with their lives doesn't matter to anyone but them.
The truth is, it matters to all of us. We are cursed by those who have made faith empty, who have made it too easy to call themselves Christians and live in no such way. Who make a mockery of Christian love by making it cheap, and grace and mercy and forgiveness, too.
What we need is a generation that rises up, that comes into covenant together and that knows that what we do in our own homes matters. Not just to ourselves, not just to our own families, but to our community, to our brothers and sisters everywhere and in every time, to the church universal and all that she stands for. Or rather, all that she kneels for and falls prostrate before God for. Because it does matter.
No matter what the world says.