It does seem to me that one of the fundamental calls of the Christian life is the willingness to forsake what we enjoy to do a better job reaching out to those who are around us. The NRSV translation is also instructive here: we are not to please ourselves, but we should all please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
I think there are a couple applications to this. One has to do with how we are the Church. Our practices, from the music we choose, the way we read and speak about Scripture, our liturgical forms, and the things we do (or don’t do) must be accessible to those presently outside our walls, drawing them in. Sometimes that means doing things that run counter to our own likes, tastes, and expectations. This kind of flexibility and openness to new forms and ideas is, I think, one of the marks of a church moving towards maturity.
The other has to do with how we live our lives personally. It has to do with our willingness to be inconvenienced not just corporately (that’s the previous paragraph), but in the thick and thin of our lives. In any given day there are things I really need to get done, and I focus pretty tightly on them. Am I willing to let those things go when needed to do a better job of sharing God’s love?
Truthfully, not as often as I’d like. So here are some questions I ask myself as I reflect on this passage. Maybe you’ll want to ask them too.
* Who are “the people around us”?
* What do “the people around me” need?
* What can I do, and encourage my church to do, to meet those needs in a very practical and concrete way?
* To meet these needs, am I willing to be inconvenienced and take the trouble to go out of my way?
And if I'm not…who will?