Monday, January 22, 2007

an ideal in community

In thinking about an ideal community (and I'm not referring now to the New Jerusalem that's to come, but an ideal community on this side of existence), of course we have to try to find the vision in Jesus and from Scripture. We also witness, by trial and error, God's work and our participation, or lack thereof, in this. And what seems to help and not help each other in realizing and fulfilling God's call for us here and now.

What I'd like to focus on here is authenticity. I have to wonder if we really want our lives to be exposed for what they are, both in community as church at our gatherings, and in virtual community as bloggers. The ones who know our struggles best are those at home. Part of being at home is to be able to be more ourselves, yet accepted through that, as well as challenged to overcome weaknesses and sins, and grow.

Each of us, in Jesus, has a great capacity for goodness. (And really every member of the human race has this, as well, being made in the image of God, eikons of God, even as cracked eikons). But we also have a great capacity to express the old person in Adam. Characteristics that are not good in God's eyes, and often not good in anyone's eyes.

I struggle in some things at certain times and periods of my life. I have struggled in the past, and haven't done well. Though God in his grace kept me from disaster (only God's grace). I have my down times when it would be nice if, like a machine in danger of meltdown, it would simply automatically shut off. But a person does not.

This is when we need to grab for all the help we can get from God and from others. And we need to seek to be on the lookout for how we can spot and assist others who may be struggling and even failing.

The ideal community here and now does not come across as a perfect group of people who have it all together. On the contrary. The ideal community, in Jesus, are those who realize they do not. That they are not where they want to be. And that they are not always heading in the right direction. That maybe some one is sidetracked into something damaging to them. And maybe another has been drifting away from their faith. And maybe another is struggling in some temptation or another.

So the ideal community is a community that realizes that Christ-likeness comes only as we deal with ourselves as we really are. In the light of God's word/Scripture, by the help of the Holy Spirit, within the community of God in Christ. I don't grow in becoming like Jesus by coming across to everyone as "Mr. Saint". But I do so, only by facing my sins, issues and problems as they really are. Bringing them to God, and at times, bringing them to the community I am a part of. As we pray and confess, and bless one another's prayers and confessions, and pray for each other, than we can see the kind of change that we all need.

One last note. We can't pour out our complete ugliness just to anyone and everyone. Ultimately God is the one who can bear all we carry. But others in God can bear something of what we carry. And thus help us with our load.

Have you experienced this kind of community? What obstacles prevent it from happening? What should those do who believe in it?

8 comments:

Charity Singleton said...

I think I often miss "ideal" community because I have the wrong "ideal" in my head. You're so right that what we think we want in terms of being with others is really not community as envisioned by Jesus. I always come back to parable about the dinner party, when all the friends were invited, but were too busy to come. So Jesus said the party thrower went out in the streets and invited all the people who never get invited to parties. That seems to be Jesus' "ideal" for community.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, Good point. I think it's important that, though we experience overcoming grace so that old issues and struggles are a thing of the past, yet we realize we're just as much in need of grace as anyone else. And we look at people in that way. So that those who would seem to be outsiders are welcome into the Jesus community, to become a part of us.

I think we're a community that is meant to be there for each other and for those who are struggling (which includes us all). And see Jesus change us, through this fellowship and communion.

andre said...

Ted,

Thanks for the post...your desire to discover community is wonderful. I've experienced community in the local church that I'm blessed to be part of. As a business executive, I need help and to be reminded by others of what is of eternal value. As a husband and father, I need the help in the form of encouragement and example. The church has been a means of grace into my life. It's not perfect but it's pretty darn good.

I know with books like "Revolution", that it's popular to knock the "institutional church" (whatever that means) ...but you won't find me among that throng. Let me briefly share why -

Five years ago when my wife was diagnosed with cancer, the community of the church was there helping us through the trial - pointing us to our Savior and serving us in practical ways. This past year, my mother-in-law who lived with us passed away and we experienced more grace through this wonderful community.

I love the friendships developed through blogging but there's also a limitation to the medium in terms of fellowship.

Every Christian should find a gospel driven, local church and plug themselves into that community - accept no substitutes. :-)

Ted Gossard said...

Amen, Andre! I couldn't agree with you more. We attend a traditional church itself, though it is doing emerging kind of things, I guess. God works through all of his people. There's not one set way that's the right way.

So wonderful to hear of the great support you've received from your fellowship. And hopefully your wife is doing fine.

You are so right. Blogging is great. But we need face to face interaction with believers. No substitute for that. Though I will say I have been able to share on levels in blogging, that are pretty doggone good. And not always arrived at with others, in person.

Thanks!

Scot said...

Ted,
I really like this idea: the ideal community is full of problems because it is full of real humans. How often do we think the ideal community is perfected people? (except us)

Ted Gossard said...

Scot,
Thanks! Well put, and so true.

Yes. I'm afraid we're afraid to be ourselves. And this doesn't make for good community. Christ among us makes all the difference, period.

JR Woodward said...

I appreciate your thoughts on the importance of being transparent and real. Right on.

Ted Gossard said...

JR, Thanks!