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Grands

Community: Being together

Enjoying a communitygroup overnight at velouria73's family beach home on Camano Island. As is usually the case, it's challenging to stop (painting, of course) and rest, but it's also been so rewarding—not because of any amazing shared mountaintop experience, but simply to be with these friends. They're so wonderful, and spending time like this is part of living our lives together in Christ, even in the fumbling, stumbling steps we're able to take.

In my old work in higher education, community living was my business. Working for the church, that's still often true, but it has different permutations and frustrations. What's been personally hard for barlow_girl and me has been pursuing relationship with some of our friends who talk the most about community and how much they value it, then—often in the very same breath—pull away from the church and thus, from us. This dysfunctional dance (regrettably, we've done it way more than once) sometimes goes on to heap blame on the church when they aren't pursued as they'd like—never mind the fact that Amy & I are continually reaching out, because somehow at this point we don't count. And so on, and so on.

When people move on to pursue something else, that's not as tough for me—I'm sad to have my friendship changed, but the dignity of being able to make those choices is important and easy to respect. But when all the "community "talk accompanies abandonment of the church, then passive-aggressive judgment of her for that choice (most of us know we're being childish when we abandon a friend and blame them for how they respond, but somehow this approach can get a pass when we do it to a community—even as we criticize it for not being relational enough!), followed by a pursuit of nothing, well, that's just hypocrisy. And I'm not claiming to be without sin in that regard, but will I respect that sin in myself or others? By no means, and even less so when relationships are left twisting in the wind because of it.

If it weren't such a painful and destructive pattern, I'd almost laugh, because it happens by the numbers so regularly. It's thoroughly unoriginal. And even deeper than the ways it hurts is the way it denies the essential, miraculous truth of the gospel: In Jesus Christ, God forgives, accepts, and loves the Church. Not you and I individually (though that's included), but a people He's chosen for Himself, a community. To fail to forgive that community for not being enough and to withdraw from it while still talking the "community" talk is deeply flawed. On some level, it judges God's choices as incorrect and withholds forgiveness where He's given it. I can't imagine that wouldn't have other repercussions in how one relates to Him.

Thankfully, those aren't struggles I'm wrestling with in our Community Group—the contrast between what we're doing here and what I hear others go on about is just striking enough to bring them to mind. We're learning and trying to love one another as He has loved us, which may not be that sexy most of the time and will certainly be fraught with failure (and hopefully repentance and forgiveness). But it's what He commanded us to do, what He prayed for us to do (John 17), and what His Spirit is empowering us to do. And we're trying, which I have to believe is better than high-mindedly talking about it while turning our backs on the people God's placed in our lives. Perhaps this choice seems mundane, but I believe it's a faithful one.

Comments

Lee,

These posts from you - particularly this theme from you - have helped me stay on course with being faithful and less critical than you'll ever know. Thank you for reminding me that Love doesn't mean perfection, and holding the Church to a higher standard is OK, but only when it's done for it's betterment in mind. Not with my disappointment in the forefront. Because then it's just about me wanting to get my way on my own terms, and Abba loves me far too much to ever let that happen.
Knowing that something that can sometimes drive me crazy here on the home front can somehow be helpful to someone else across the miles is so encouraging—thanks for saying so.
Good thoughts. I've been guilty of the same behavior as your friends, so this is a good reminder.
Yeah, and I wouldn't go so far as to think it's any great wisdom or high moral standing that keeps me from that same mistake—I've been shaped a great deal by my work, which very much affects my perspective.

God knows my weaknesses so I often wonder if He's put me in a place where it's tougher for me to veer to the left or right. Then again, that's what the community of the Church is supposed to (and very much can) do for all of us. We just suck at committing and submitting to it.
LOL His love is not always sexy!

When since was God's Love sexy?

By the way, you're right about one thing. We should never pass moral judgment on others. After all, you're choices are good choices when you choose God's choices [Our freedom is the result of God’s choices, and we are freed by God’s love so that we inturn might love, we in turn might serve, that we in turn might give. That each day in
small but important ways we might lay down our lives for our friends.]