Back in January, Jan and I took part in A Place at the Table, a forum on food and togetherness. The first night of the event, we watched a film titled The Man Who Ate New Orleans, about a minister who ate at every restaurant in New Orleans to learn about the city and its people.The film discussed the seven cardinal virtues of New Orleans: community, generosity, openness to outsiders, celebration, resiliency, diversity, and tradition.
Most of you know how I feel about community. I believe community is one of the most important things in life. I would put it in the top three, after our relationship with God , and our families. In a sense, these three are intertwined. God calls us into community with the personal, communal Trinity, and we learn how to live in community in the family.
Eugene Peterson states, "There can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion and embrace of community." We are called into community and are given the power to live in community by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of the resurrection we are given the Spirit who fills us and enables us to live the Jesus life. Unfortunately, over the centuries, following Jesus has been reduced to a "me and my Savior" mentality that sees the Christian life as an individual thing that really doesn't concern anyone else. Multitudes of folks go from church to church in an attempt to find one that "feeds" them or that caters to their preferences. Others sit at home and watch a preacher on TV telling them what they want to hear.
Learning to live as a follower of Christ takes more than hearing a sermon, singing songs, or sitting in a class. It is not a private thing. It must be lived out in community with others, and that must go beyond what happens in a once-a-week gathering. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus takes this further when he commands us to love as he loved us. That is a sacrificial love that can only be shown in relationship with others.
Living in community is messy, whether that community is a neighborhood in a city or a group of Christians. We're dealing with human beings here! If we seek to live in community with other believers, we will get dirty helping other believers, we will be frustrated by other believers, and we will be hurt by other believers. Look all through Scripture and other histories. You will not find a Utopian community. We will sin against one another. That is why we are called to be people of grace and forgiveness. When we have a true view of sin, we can forgive others and love them. Forgiveness is one of the things we must practice in order to live in community, along with being a friend who listens and understands compassionately.
Father, help us to live in resurrection community, loving one another by giving our lives, and extending grace and forgiveness to one another.