Community Part 3
We recently started hosting and leading a community group in our home. The idea is to gather with other Christians who live in our neighborhood and facilitate conversations about what it looks like to make disciples of the people in our lives in our neighborhood, our workplaces, and our social contexts. We wanted to unite our church involvement with the larger context of our lives, to help ensure that we don't primarily live out our faith in only "Christian" environments.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer begins Life Together as follows:
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Ps. 133:1)...
It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. "The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people. O you blasphemers and betrayer of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing who would ever have been spared?" (Luther)."
These are two seemingly contradictory principles: it is good to dwell in unity, to experience community... and yet, it is not good to live a cloistered life. Christian community, until the final resurrection, is not primarily about the enjoyment of one another's company. The church is not meant to be inwardly focused. We have a mandate, after all, to storm the gates of hell. We have a great commission to make disciples. We have a great commandment to love God and love our neighbors. We can't fulfill any of these by living an inwardly focused Christian life, in communities that keep us away from the outside world. That is, I think, why the Union is so compelling to so many of us: we hear that mandate, that commission, and that commandment and see that in order to obey them we must live our Christianity out in ways and contexts that make disciples of the people in our lives.
Nonetheless, it is good to dwell in unity, and we need community. We just need to find a way to live in community that spurs us on to love God, love others, and make disciples.
We are still trying to get to know the neighbors on our block. I'm still building relationships with my colleagues. And now we're trying to gently nudge others in our community group towards the same end by sharing our stories, asking them about the people in their lives, and starting conversations about what it looks like to bring Jesus to our city and our neighborhood.
Bonhoeffer also talks about the means of building community. Coincidentally, it coincides with the great commandment, and I believe remains the single greatest example to the watching world: "The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community" (Bonhoeffer).
As someone else has said,
"What the world needs now is love sweet love, Its the only thing that there's just to little of, What the world needs now is love sweet love, No, not just for some but for everyone"