This post is part two of my “link” in a chain blog started by Alan Knox on the subject of “one another”. Part one, “Corporate One-Anothering”, can be found here. The other links in this chain blog are listed at the end of this post, along with instructions on how to participate if you would like to join in.
“Corporate ONE-Anothering” or “Corporate UN-Anothering”?
In Part One I introduced the concept of “corporate one-anothering”, which we see modeled in the New Testament among various local churches and groups of believers. Based on a corporate application of Philippians 2:1-11 and also of the “one another” exhortations in the New Testament, I invited everyone to envision what it might look like if the Body of Christ were to put these scriptures into practice corporately, assembly to assembly, fellowship to fellowship in their own home town or city.
In this post I would like to address the disparity between that wonderful picture and the one that generally prevails in Christendom today, one of “corporate UN-anothering”.
I am calling the lack of, and also the opposite of, “corporate ONE-anothering”, “corporate UN-anothering”. In this regard, the prefix “un-”, meaning both “not” and “the opposite of” captures both the non-practice as well as the anti-practice of the “one another” scriptures on a corporate level. Tragically, both aspects of “corporate UN-anothering” are common and generally accepted in the Christian community in this day. If there is to be any hope of the “picture” changing, we need to get to the root of the problem, and then seek out God’s remedy.
So let us wade in, then, by asking a few basic questions:
If “one-anothering” is inherent to the nature of the Body of Christ, why is there so little genuine “corporate one-anothering” taking place in the Christian community? What lies at the root of such prevalent “corporate UN-anothering?”
To begin to unearth the answer to these questions, we can begin by asking them in relation to “individual one-anothering”. Since we are much more familiar with that level it may help us to find the key to the corporate level as well.
So let us re-frame the questions with the focus on the individual:
If “one-anothering” is inherent to the nature of those who are in Christ Jesus, why is there so little genuine “individual one-anothering” taking place in the Christian community? What lies at the root of such prevalent “individual UN-anothering?”
I think that the answer to these questions on this level is fairly clear, and is simply summed up in the little word, “SELF”. Just consider some of the attributes, attitudes and activities of the “SELF-life” that are contrary to the practice of “one-anothering”: self-centeredness, self-absorption, self-interest, selfish ambition, self-indulgence, self-will, self-governance, self-righteousness, self-conceit, self-glory, self-promotion, self-reliance, self-determination, and self-preservation. Whenever SELF is at the center, “one anothering” diminishes or vanishes altogether. The root of “individual UN-anothering” is found in the SELF-life of man. This is where sin has taken its hold and done its distorting, disintegrating and destructive work.
If that is the case on the individual level, we ought to look to see if it also has a corporate equivalent which lies at the root of “UN-anothering” on the corporate level.
“The Corporate Self”
If we were to take the same characteristics listed above for the Self-life of the individual and apply them to the corporate entities we know, especially as it relates to the Church, would we see something familiar, or something foreign? For instance, would we recognize as familiar corporate self-centeredness, corporate self-interest, and corporate selfish ambition? Would we see as prevalent corporate self-will, corporate self-governance, and corporate self-determination? Would we repeatedly discover corporate self-conceit, corporate self-promotion, corporate self-reliance and corporate self-preservation? Are these attributes and attitudes commonplace in the corporate dimension, or are they alien to it? Have we discovered the same essential root exists on the corporate level, or do we need to look elsewhere for the root of “corporate UN-anothering?”
I think it is very clear that SELF not only exists on the individual level, but also on the corporate level, and that it is indeed the universal root of “UN-anothering” on whatever level it is found.
The truth of the matter is that when multiple individuals, each possessing a SELF-life, coalesce together into a collective unit, they bring about a pooling of SELF that takes on corporate dimensions and dynamics. The corporate entity develops a distinct “corporate self “all of its own. Foundational to this “corporate self”, the entity develops a corporate constitution, a corporate identity and a corporate-governance structure that distinguish it from other collective entities around it. It then pursues its own self-interests and ambitions as separate from these other bodies. In order to strengthen its own unity, cohesion, prosperity and promulgation, it tends to exalt its own special virtues and distinctiveness above that of the others resulting in corporate conceit and sectarian self-pride. This “corporate self”, influenced by the collective sin nature of its members, invariably turns inward towards itself as the center and ultimate objective of its existence, even though it may purport to exist for higher and nobler purposes. It then begins to manifest the attributes, attitudes and activities listed above that are also common to the individual SELF of man: self-centeredness, self-absorption, self-interest, selfish ambition, self-indulgence, self-will, self-governance, self-righteousness, self-conceit, self-glory, self-promotion, self-reliance, self-determination, and self-preservation.The longer such an entity exists, the more established, comprehensive and distinctive this “corporate self” becomes.
When such a “corporate self” interacts and inter-relates with other “corporate selves” around it, it then tends to do so not out of a posture of Christ-like “ONE-anothering”, but rather out of a position of self-interested “UN-anothering.” This may take a more passive non-practice form of “UN-anothering”, resulting in “respectful” non-interaction, peaceful co-existence and, mutually-agreeable independence, or it may take a more active anti-practice form of “UN-anothering”, resulting in corporate competition, intentional undermining and/or purposeful opposition towards the other entities. In either case, the root of the problem lies in the development of the sin-corrupted, “CORPORATE SELF.”
If we were to look out across the landscape of Christendom, we would see that this is pretty much what prevails amongst the established institutions of corporate Christianity. The development and establishment of the “CORPORATE SELF” has all but destroyed geniune, Philippians 2-like, Christ-minded, “corporate one-anothering.” This, indeed, is the ROOT of the problem.
If we have accurately diagnosed the root, then we must seek to find and apply the remedy. Here again, going to the individual level will help us to get a handle on the remedy that, likewise, applies on the corporate level.
So let us begin with this basic question:
What is God’s remedy for the individual SELF-life of the believer which stands in opposition to the “one-anothering” unity and community that He desires amongst His people?
If we go back to our foundational scripture for this post, Philippians 2:1-11 we will see that the remedy for “selfish ambition”, “vain conceit” and isolated self-interest lies in having “the same mind-set as Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 2:3-5 says,
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”
Paul then goes on to describe what this “mindset” is that is supremely exemplified in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
7 rather, He made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
There is a Greek noun, of which a verbal form is found in these verses, that theologians use to describe the mindset and the actions of Christ described in this portion of Scripture. It is the word we transliterate “kénōsis“ (κένωσις), which means “emptiness”. The verbal form of this word, ekénōsen (ἐκένωσεν), is found in verse 7, which is translated, “He made himself nothing …” (NIV), or “…he emptied himself…” (NRSV). “Kenosis”, the emptying of SELF, exemplified by Christ and consummated in the cross, is the “mindset” that is to be embraced by believers in their relationship with God and with one another. Jesus Himself spoke of this mindset when He said, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himSELF (kenosis), take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) This radical mindset is foundational to the calling of a disciple of Jesus, for it eradicates the biggest obstacle to true, God-like relationship, the SELF-life. This “cross-embracing kenosis”, therefore, is the “REMEDY” for the SELF-life of man and the solution to the problem of “individual UN-anothering”.
That being established, we now come to the problem of the “CORPORATE SELF”, the root of “corporate UN-anothering.” Since the essential root of the problem is the same on the corporate level as on the individual level, the radical remedy of the problem is also the same on the corporate level as on the individual level. In order for the Lord to have on earth the full manifestation of His Divine One-Anothering Community, the Church, the corporate entities that comprise the Church must radically deal with the root of their own “corporate self” through taking on the “mindset” of Christ Jesus in their inter-corporate relationships with one another. This mindset is one of “corporate (cross-embracing) kenosis.”
So what does that mean, and what does that look like?
First of all, we need to realize how deeply rooted the problem lies, so that we do not look for some quick fix or a mere tweaking of certain attitudes or actions. That doesn’t work on the individual level, and it doesn’t work on the corporate level, either. The cross is never shallow or selective. It is radical, and it is thorough. We dare not be like the false prophets of old of whom the Lord said, “They treat the wound of My people as though it were not deep. ‘Peace, peace they say when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)
Secondly, “corporate kenosis” needs to be taken as seriously by the Christian community as “individual kenosis” is to be taken by the followers of Jesus according to the Scriptures. The corporate does not get a “bye” on the cross. It is not allowed the luxury of self-exaltation and self-interest, while those within its numbers are called to personally deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus. “Kenosis” is to mark the Church of Christ, the Lamb of God, all the way through, from the micro- to the macro-, as one integral piece. If anything, the corporate, being much more visible and influential than the individual, has even a greater responsibility to embrace the mindset of Christ Jesus than the individual follower does, and Jesus makes it clear that “cross-embracing kenosis” is non-negotiable for the individual follower.
Thirdly, “corporate kenosis” means an emptying of all that finds its source, its means and its ends in man, rather than in God Himself: “For of Him, and through Him and to Him are all things.” (Romans 11:36) Therefore, all that is man-centered, man-made, man-established, man-named, man-directed, man-sustained and man-glorifying in the corporate aspects of the Church must be emptied out and taken to the cross. All that is God-centered, God-made, God-established, God-named, God-directed, God-sustained and God-glorifying will then remain, increase and multiply. Likewise, all that has supplanted Christ and Christ alone as the Center, the Identity, the Foundation and the Head of the Church must be emptied out and crucified. Only then can Christ be restored to His rightful place in all of these respects and the Church begin to manifest His Fullness as the Divine One-Anothering Community of God on earth as she is called to be.
Fourthly, the embracing of “corporate kenosis” will mean the emptying out and eradicating of those corporate attributes, attitudes and activities of the “corporate self” that stand in opposition to genuine “corporate one-anothering: corporate self-centeredness, corporate self-interest, and corporate selfish ambition, corporate self-will, corporate self-conceit, corporate self-promotion, corporate self-reliance and corporate self-preservation, to name a few. As was shared in Part One, in my interpretative paraphrase of Philippians 2:3-5, the various corporate assemblies should: “Do nothing out of independent, sectarian ambition or self-centered corporate conceit. Rather, in humility value the other gatherings of the church above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests as a body only, but to the interests of the others as well.” Corporate humility, servanthood and sacrifice should mark the various assemblies in their relationships with one another, rather than “corporate UN-anothering.”
Lastly,”corporate kenosis” must be embraced with, and ever-marked by, an overwhelming sense of joyful hope and glorious expectation. “Cross-embracing kenosis” is not the end of the story, but rather a means to the end. The end, as it was and is with the Lord Jesus Christ, is always unto resurrection, exaltation, glory, outpouring and the full and fruitful manifestation of the Kingdom of God on earth. With the corporate expressions of the Church which pass through “corporate kenosis” and the cross, it will be no less. Whatever sacrifice, whatever cost, whatever pain, whatever seeming loss may be incurred, will be surely replaced with an exceeding reward, joy, pleasure and gain that will not even compare with what was emptied out at the foot of the cross! Whatever passes through death for the Lord’s sake always comes forth in resurrection and multiplied fruitfulness. That is the principle of resurrection.
So, as we end this two-part post, I would like to encourage you to go back to what was shared in Part One and end with what we began with: a dream of what it would be like if the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ were to put into practice, both individually and corporately, the “one another” exhortations in Scripture as a Unified Divine One-Anothering Community on earth. We need to capture God’s dream for His Church which will one day come into full consummation and manifestation, and of which we are now called to be its firstfruits. This is the joy that is set before us. This is possible. This is not a “pipe-dream.” This is the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven, NOW!
Your comments are most welcome, and please visit the other links in this “one another” chain blog. They are a blessing. If you would like to contribute your own link, the “chain blog rules” are below.
Blessings in Him, David
“Links” in the “One Another” chain blog:
1. “Chain Blog: One Another” by Alan
2. “Linking One Another” by Swanny
3. “What Does It Mean to Love One Another? by Chuck
4. “The treasure of “One Another” by Jim
5. “This is how the world shall recognise you…” by Kathleen
6. “Accepting one another in love” by Chris
7a. “One Another-ing: A meta-narrative for the church” (Part 1 of 2) by Greg
7b. “One Another-ing: A meta-narrative for the church” (Part 2 of 2) by Greg
8. “Individualism and ‘one another’” by Pieter
9. “All Alone with One Another” by Jeremy
10. “When it’s OK for Christians to compete” by Joshua
11. “Jesus Christ, the Corner Stone for One Another” by Peter
12. “Be Superficial with One Another” by Jon
13. “The Unmentionable One Anothers” by Alan
14. “Loving more fully and widely” by Chris
15. “the one another weapon” by Dan
16a. “Corporate One-Anothering” (Pt.1 of 2) by David
16b. “Corporate UN-Anothering” (Pt. 2 of 2) by David
17. “The Last Revival” by Tobie
18. “love: a ‘one another’ comic” by Dan
19. Who will write the 19th link post in the chain?
Chain blog rules:
1) If you would like to write the next blog post (link) in this chain, leave a comment stating that you would like to do so. If someone else has already requested to write the next link, then please wait for that blog post and leave a comment there requesting to write the following link.
2) Feel free to leave comments here and discuss items in this blog post without taking part in the actual “chain.” Your comments and discussion are very important in this chain blog
(both this post and the other link posts in the chain).
3) When you write a link in this chain, please reply in the comments of the previous post to let everyone know that your link is ready. Also, please try to keep an updated list of links in the chain at the bottom of your post, and please include these rules at the bottom of your post.