Today's post features Dustin Wright: blogger, worshiping member, and leader in the by the way community. This being the last month that by the way will be blogging (see the post from Feb. 2), we're hearing stories from those who have been central in btw's organically-growing life. Thanks, Dustin, for your insightful words here, and for all you have given to this community! ~ Kari Henkelmann Keyl
As by the way continues its journey, entering into a season of change and evolution, I'd like to reflect on how this community's ministry has been important to me, in light of the Bible reading that many Christians around the world will be focusing on this Sunday, Matthew 5:21-37.
At first glance, Jesus seems to be speaking here in very plain language. He tells us to reconcile with others, or we will "pay the last penny". He tells us not to look at others lustfully, or we will be “thrown into hell.” He tells us that all oaths come “from the evil one.” Once some of his prescribed actions are considered however, it becomes quite clear that Jesus is doing more than simply giving commands. Instead of commanding us to gouge out our eyes or cut off our limbs, Jesus is instead teaching us how important our thoughts are instead of simply our actions.
When we lust over wealth, prestige, or indeed another person, we’re already loosing focus on what God is trying to tell us. When we give into anger and dismiss the concerns of a spouse, a parent or even a close friend, we end up violating God’s intention for us to be in community with others. Whenever we lust or don’t work to release anger from our hearts, whether we act on such emotions or not, we’re already distracted from our relationship with God, and life can indeed become a living hell.
Of course, it’s so easy to get distracted! In world that is constantly trying to pull us in different directions, we all need a place that is a “shelter from the storm” so to speak, a community where we know there are loving people that care for us and want to walk with us as we get back on track. The by the way community provided that shelter for me, in a time when I needed it the most.
When I first came to by the way I was in the midst of a great period of loss in my life, and I was grasping at almost anything that I thought might keep me afloat… having recently graduated college into a well paying but life-consuming job, I was living a pretty hedonistic lifestyle in the little spare time I had, longing for wealth and relationships in a vain attempt to fill all that was missing. Every time I took that long drive to Nashua, NH however and participated in by the way’s "Bread for Your Journey" gathering, I briefly had a chance to refocus on my relationship with God. As I got increasingly involved with the by the way community, I was empowered to listen to God’s call, and now only a couple years later, I am beginning my second semester at seminary, on my way to -- with God’s help -- becoming an ordained pastor.
At the beginning of this post I mentioned how by the way is entering into a season of change… and that’s exactly what it’s doing! As much as it might seem like it, by the way is not ending, not at all! Instead, through the ministries of all whom it has touched over the years, by the way is evolving into what it was always meant to be. Through all of us, by the way will continue to have a lasting positive influence on others, be a ministry centered on learning and growth, and most importantly, be a way for individuals to feel part of the body of Christ who wouldn’t otherwise.
Note: For some insight into Jesus' challenging words on divorce, see this translation: Matthew 5:21-37 - The Message ~ Kari