the challenge of community

I can’t think of anyone that I know who doesn’t, on some level, value community. It is commonly agreed that some sort of meaningful community is integral to all human beings. Certainly among Christians, one can reasonably argue that we have been created for community, that it is a core and foundational aspect of following Christ. The idea of community often brings along with it a case of the warm fuzzies – fun, friends, fellowship, a literal shoulder to cry on in times of trouble and a warm smile to greet you every Sunday morning.

Community can, should be, and at times is, very good.

But it is also, at times, very complex and difficult.

My pastoral care and counseling class was asked four questions this past Monday which were intended to shake up our perceived, possibly idealistic notions of community. Among those questions was the following:

How do we know what is best for human beings?

Take a look around, and there are literally thousands of different answers to that question. Our culture tells us that the best things for us is to amass, consume, and do whatever feels best to you at any particular time. Even among Christians, the answer to this question largely depends on our interpretations of who God is and what he wants for us.

I think that part of the problem is that we are living in a society that demands immediate answers to our questions and solutions to our problems. The question of what is best for human beings is obviously highly complicate, one that cannot be answered in the same way that we can respond to hunger by visiting the drive-thru and munching on a burger in less than ten minutes.

I believe that this question must be answered within the context of community, specifically a Christian community that has a strong understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, God’s active, living and speaking presence among us.

The challenge lies in devoting the time necessary to develop the kind of community that goes beyond handshakes and pleasantries and digs deep into each others lives. We can have vague ideas about what is best for human beings, but the answer changes based on the context of individual stories, and can only be answered by being in tune with a living Christ. Christian community must be able to provide a framework within which to face the world around us, must be able to provide a new way of looking at things. We are called to shape and re-frame the world around us according to the Word of God, and not vice versa.

When I think about what that involves, it gives me a case of the butterflies, not the fuzzies. That is a long and difficult path, but one down which the church must travel.

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