March 22 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep.” ~Joshua 7:11

Jericho, the great “City of Palms,” falls to the Israelite people, and Joshua dispatches a small force west to the town of Ai. They are soundly defeated, struck down by a rabble of villagers. Joshua and the people are confused. How can this be? They conquered Jericho. So the leader falls face down before God in the place of worship. He stays there all day in a state of mourning. The problem, God informs Joshua, is a sin that needs to be dealt with. God is angry with the entire community because one man did the unthinkable in Jericho; Achan withheld some of the offering from the Lord. Everything taken in this first battle was to be given to God as an act of worship. (In later battles, only a tithe was required.)

In Achan’s disobedience and in God’s reaction to it is a powerful lesson that challenges some of our modern, Western notions of privatized religion. We are fond of talking about our personal relationship with God, and indeed, the unique bond that is forged between the Savior and the saved is a personal one, as well as an essential one. But it is not an isolated relationship. We do not talk enough about the impact of our personal relationship with God on the rest of the church community. Achan’s greed, his failure to honor God’s Word, has devastating consequences for the entire worshipping community and particularly tragic results for his family. Within a worshipping community, lives intersect in complex and powerful ways. Therefore, the decisions we make have a rippling effect on our church, our children, and our communities! We must be careful about thinking that “it’s my life” and “I can do what I want with it.”

Perhaps a secondary, but closely related, lesson in Achan’s story is the call to act when someone in our ambit of influence sins against God. I’m not suggesting that we become spiritual spies rooting out religious hypocrites. (Keep in mind that it was Joshua, the leader of the people, who was given the task of investigating.) However, the community must NOT be afraid to address blatant disregard for God’s commands when it happens in their midst. There should be a culture of concern for God’s glory within our churches. The New Testament beckons us to come alongside people who are struggling in sin and support them in making changes (Gal. 6:1-10). But when someone doesn’t want help, when he or she thumbs a nose at the leaders of the community, and refuses to listen or to change, then action is required (see 1 Cor. 5, Matt. 18:15-20).

Your relationship with God IS personal, and so is that of every Christ-follower you know, but each relationship has a powerful impact on the rest of the worshipping community. If this challenges your understanding of what community is, you are not alone. But the fact is, the choices we make to obey or disobey reverberate outward, touching more lives than we can imagine. May God give us wisdom, grace, and courage to live out our personal faith in community.

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.