Wednesday, January 17, 2007

holiness is communal

Related to yesteday's post, I want to make the important point today, that, at its heart, holiness is communal.

With the coming of the Protestant Reformation, of which I am a part, I believe there were important gains and insights drawn from Scripture. At the same time there were loses in areas that eventually most in the Reformation left behind from their Roman Catholic heritage. One of those is the monastic orders. For all the negatives that can be said about them, there were good things, as well. And one of them is the aspect of community lived out by them.

There is a strong and overwhelming tendency to view holiness (i.e., in God's love in Christ, living in God's will, as those set apart from sin to righteousness, from self to God, in mission to the world) as primarily some individualistic, private reality and experience. People think of someone, maybe some great "saint" of the past, and say, "She was holy!" Then think of characteristics of that person, demonstrating her holiness. There is truth there. But the fact remains that holiness is never lived out in isolation. It is in the communion of God, and in the communion of God's people, and in mission to the world.

I love community. And dislike isolation, though we need some of that. It is good just to have fun with each other. But we also need to work at being intentional in other ways that help us in our journeys. And to see our journeys as converging in a real sense. Journeying together.

We're all dependent on God and on his revelation to us in Christ and from Scripture. Apart from this, we can never be holy. But we're also interdependent on each other. God does not see us merely as separate entities, as important and precious as that individual relationship with God is. But he also sees us as those in community. I have an obligation, in love, to my brother and sister. And my brother and sister have an obligation in love to me.

Scripture talks about us confessing our sins to God and to each other, as God's people. And holding each other accountable. All, in love. And seeing each other grow in holiness. Giving room to struggle, and admit difficulty and even defeat. So that one can become, in God, truly holy. Growing together into the family likeness of our Brother, and Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

How have you seen community help you in becoming holy? Or what thoughts might you like to add here?


L.L. Barkat said...

I think that without community I might often convince myself I am holy; with it, I have no doubts that I absolutely need God's continuing grace and leading towards love.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

I think that true missional community reflects holiness in that it reflects being created in the Trinitarian image of God. God is perfect, He is Holy, which we know means more than moral perfection. I believe His perfect Oneness in His Trinitarian nature is a central expression of that holiness. In the same way, as reflect the oneness of the One in whom are resurrected together, we reflect His holiness. Does that make sense?


Mark Goodyear said...

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This is true in business as much as in the church. (I suppose you could say that business, like all human organizations, is just another approximation of God's church.)

I know I long for community. That's why I've become so interested in blogging. Other than my family, I don't have a community in my town that I trust enough to be vulnerable. (We haven't lived here long.)

So Ted, can virtual community lead to holiness too? If so, I wonder what unique challenges such a community could face.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., Great point. Our insight into who we are in that we are communal beings, as well as our failure to live accordingly due to the separation that comes from the fall, this is made evident to us in community. We understand then, just how much we need God's grace which is a restorative, communal grace. To reveal us in our rough edges and selves, and to transform us in that context. And really the entire goal of God's moving is communal in nature. Haha. Thanks.

Ted Gossard said...

Jamie, Agreed. That is at the heart of it. Thanks for bringing that in!

Ted Gossard said...

Mark, In my own experience I'd say virtual community has undoubtedly helped. Through many blogs, including your own, during the short time I've read it.

But surely it helps only as we move with that blessing from it, into the everyday worlds in which we live. It impacts me informationally, but even more so in formation. As we share together about the life we have together in God through Christ.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., My laugh at the end of the comment was in regard to my wordiness and theological wordiness. I sometimes probably get carried away in that, though in this virtual reality, it is easier for me to catch myself and not do that.

Ted Gossard said...

Also, Jamie. I see that as so very important and helpful for us to better understand community. I was thinking of it in terms, I thought were more used, concerning it, in Scripture.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Good post.

One of things that concerns me in the spiritual formation curriculum in so many seminaries is that it is highly individualistic, as if the only thing or at lteast the most important thing in being formed spiritually is contemplating our "spiritual navels."

Obviously, there is a place for the personal, but the community is indispensable when it ocmes to sanctification.

Charity Singleton said...

One aspect of community that helps form us spiritually is the context to be obedient. Since so many of the commands in both testaments have to do with out we treat others (including the second greatest commandment), we would have no way to practice obedience if we always lived in isolation. We also would have no way of knowing if we really love God (if you say you love God, and yet hate your brother, you are a liar).

Ted Gossard said...

Allan, I've seen the same thing, and I really don't find any emphasis that doesn't put on a strong emphasis on community, helpful for Christian formation. Thanks!

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Great point. In one way or another, in Scripture, you always end up in human community. And can't escape that. So that our love for God can become evident there, in our love relationship with people. And thankfully God calls us and helps us grow in this.

Linea said...

Tom, I explored your blog because I enjoy your level headed comments over at Jesus Creed. Maybe level headed simply means that I agree with you but thanks for your comments there.

Just considering holiness as something we move towards within the context of community, reminds me that we would be unlikely to even be introduced to our faith without the action of the community that is the church. The community teaches us, surrounds us with examples and opportunities to “work” out our faith, it surrounds us with saints from the past and saints living. If the community is functioning as it should, it should move us towards deeper knowledge of Christ and towards obedient lifestyles. That is the kind of holiness I hope we see – not some personal and highly private hidden off in a hermitage kind of holiness. Not that a hermit is not a holy thing for one called to that, just in reality most of us are called to be holy in our ordinary lives.

Ted Gossard said...

Linea, Thanks for your kind thoughts. In that company at Jesus Creed, I often feel like I'm over my head. But when people like you join in over here, as well as bloggers on my links, I realize I am truly blessed to be in fellowship with such sisters and brothers.

And great thoughts about communal holiness. So right. Nothing at all replaces that- what you so well describe.