Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Community: Risking Love

Community is still hard. It is healing, redemptive, rewarding and exciting, but it is still hard. Understand that I don’t mean the “Okay everybody, let’s have community” thing that can be a new religious commodity or marketing ploy (See “Love,” in A is for Abductive by Leonard Sweet, et al). Real community is what you get when people dedicate themselves to loving one another. It’s often messy, uncertain and fearful, but it’s a process that can be trusted. When we do this, we are willing to hurt and be hurt, willing to argue, and willing to hit bumps along the way.

While God desires the complete restoration of each individual human life, the Master doesn’t do this work primarily on an individual basis. He restores us as a corporate entity, the Body of Christ. If we’re going to be Christians, if we’re going to be healed and whole, we must share our lives with one another. We have been called, and are being equipped, to carry the light of Christ into the dark and fearful places in our friends’ lives. This vocation requires dedicating ourselves to friendship for the long haul, and fully receiving all that comes with it: joy, compassion, and transformation, but also the certainty that we will be hurt.

If we are close enough to one another to offer love and healing words, we are close enough to hurt one another. This happens in any number of ways: through misunderstanding, unmet expectations, failure of communication, and any number of things. When we do get hurt, feeling rejected or maligned, we may even rebel against the love of God and our friends, resorting to bitterness, gossip, backbiting, and again the list goes on (Look at Paul's epistles if you want longer lists).

However, the community’s goal cannot be to set up barriers to make sure we do not hurt one another: that kind of fearful response will only grieve the Spirit and hinder love’s redeeming work. We must instead choose not to live in fear, and accept the certainty that this will happen, and decide how we will continue to be together when it does. When slighted, will we speak up and take responsibility for the way we feel? Will we deal directly with conflicts and be honest about our shortcomings and fears? Can we, in the midst of feeling rejected and uncared for, choose not to reject in turn? Can we affirm love for the other even in the face of one’s own perceived disaffirmation? Can we listen to one another, and be willing to absorb the pain of conflict?
In forgiving one another the sins we commit against each other and the community at large, we absorb the brokenness of our sinful humanity in the name of Christ. This is not an easy or glamorous task. It rarely feels warm and fuzzy. But it is a necessary part of redemption, for reconciliation is God’s fervent desire for his people.
- from Superpowers: On the Holy Spirit in the Community

Bonhoeffer warns us against loving “community.” The real work is found in loving the people in the community. If one loves community and not the people who are in it, as soon as one person’s weakness or sin interferes with the ideal, that person will be hated. We must sacrifice the ideal of community on the altar of our love for our friends.

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4 comments:

+ Alan said...

good, good, good, good. And hard, and good, and worth it.

A said...

Kyle,
Truly good stuff here. As Blogger doesn't support trackbacks as far as I can tell, see this URL for my post on yours:

http://totheabbey.blogspot.com/2005/04/kentuckians-strike-again.html

Peace

A said...

Well then, that's
http://totheabbey.blogspot.com/2005/04
/kentuckians-strike-again.html

Kyle said...

Thanks, fellas!