Tuesday, April 08, 2008

grace in community

I think oftentimes we lose the sense of unity that is ours in Jesus because of either too high or too low expectations of ourselves and each other.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his wonderful book, Life Together speaks of our vision of community being the enemy of real community. That is, we have a certain picture of the way it should be, and we want to help it to that goal that we see, our vision. But in doing so, we end up killing community, and in the end despair not only of it and other people, but also of ourselves.

On the other hand we can have too low a view of community. That is, we can think there's little or no hope for any true community in Jesus, and therefore we're not going to sweat it, but will calmly keep basically to ourselves and our few friends, and let the rest go as they may. Of course for those of us who attend large churches, or even medium sized, there is no way we're going to get to know everyone well. But I speak here of a mentality of simply keeping to ourselves and our buddies, because we find reaching out beyond that so hard, and unfruitful.

The answer, surely, is grace. We need grace on the one hand, to accept the fact that we are all sinners. That God has begun a good work in us through Jesus, and that we're in process. This means that we need to accept each (Romans 15:5-7 taken out of context, but has application) other just as we are, including ourselves. Yet also look to God in his grace to be growing us through our communion with him, into a fellowship that is a blessing to one another, and out from that to the world.

On the other hand grace is needed to believe that God is doing a work in spite of ourselves. And that we need to look to him and for signs and evidences of that work in ourselves and in each other. That we would not lower our expectations but believe that God can make us into a fellowship that in Jesus can bless each other and the world. That in the Spirit we already have a unity which we're exhorted to work hard at keeping.

So we need to work on keeping that balance.

What might you add to this, or any thoughts?

17 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Ted,

This is an excellent post! The only thing that I would add is that we should recognize that community will be messy because it is made of messy people. This stems from your comments about expectation. If we expect people to be perfect, then we will never understand or realie community. We we live with one another in spite of our messiness - that is, live in grace - I think we will witness God drawing us together into his community.

However, if we try to make things look nice, presentable, without friction or problems, then we will squelch any possibility of community.

-Alan

Even So... said...

My thought is that it is a constant battle, to not swing the pendulum too far in either direction. A recent thought that I have begun to sign off with is this tagline:

Fighting the battle of faith, with His mercy...

Rachel Mc said...

I agree too, it is a constant battle that I need to pay attention to. For me, it is easy to get buried in my work or sons' lives and not notice anything or anyone except my little world. I realize community is so important, because you need people to help you find God's grace, accept it, and incorporate it into your life.

NaNcY said...

yes, grace is truly important.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Alan,

Thanks for your kind words. And I love your point on accepting each others messiness. Amen!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Even So,
Yes, very true. So easy for us to swing to one extreme or another. I think there has to be alot of dependence on God to help us, that God's grace will keep us both accepting and wanting to grow and go on in Jesus.

Thanks!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Rachel,
Thanks. And yes, the Lord understands our circumstances and frailty. It is amazing what being together with God's people can do, as we share together by the Spirit, in humble, down to earth ways, in the word. We have to keep going through the whole process and hang in there, because life in community in Jesus is sometimes difficult, but we need to learn more and more that we really do need each other in Jesus. Takes commitment, and since I work at a minsitry with a bunch of Christians, it's easy for me to slack off some elsewhere, though I do appreciate the unity in Jesus I experience at work.

Community is part of what God brings us into in fellowship with him: Father, Son and Spirit- in Jesus. It's a part of who we are- in the Father and in the Son by the Spirit, and one in this.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Amen, Nancy. An important word.

Even So... said...

rachel mc,

well said...

John Frye said...

Ted,
This is a clear, compelling glimpse into community. Thanks for the exhortation to the delicate balance of our need to work hard for community and at the same time trust in the Spirit's good work.
John

preacherman said...

Ted,
Wonderful post brother yet again!
I think the balance is speaking the truth in love and that we treat people like Jesus Christ would. I believe need to cherish the grace of God. It is the greatest gift of all. Cherish it don't abuse it. We in the grace community of believe should strive to be like Jesus. I know on that day I want Jesus to say, "I know you." I believe having that personal relationship with Jesus and enjoying the kingdom on earth with all of its blessings is what life is all about.
God bless you brother for all you do for God, challenging people to think about their faith and relationship with God, theology and the kingdom. You blog I believe is one of the best that I visit. It is always uplifting and encouraging to me.
Love you brother.
In Him,'
Kinney Mabry

Ted M. Gossard said...

Well put, John.

And thanks!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks so much, Kinney. You're always quite the encourager. And thanks for your words added to this. It should not be taken for granted that we really know the Lord. Part of Paul's passion, "that I may know him..." (Php 3).

Thanks, brother!

NaNcY said...

i believe that, for me, community is the Love of God. the living Love of God. and grace along with everything and everyone else is included when i place my heart and eyes on Him.

thank you for your faithful giving of the Love of God through your writing here. your encouragement and faithfulness is a blessing to others.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Nancy. And much wisdom in what you say. It's all found in God through Jesus.

Kim said...

Late (fashionably!) to the party, as usual...but I wanted to say that Pastor H's message this morning was on this very topic...well, he was preaching on Paul & Barnabas eventually going their separate ways, but you get the idea.

I was reminded of part of the extended serenity prayers, where we ask God to help us take this world as Jesus did - the way it IS, and not the way WE would have it.

Thanks for this, Ted. I think I'll be expanding on this topic in the coming days, that is, if I find the time to write.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Kim,
Thanks, and I'll be interested in what you have to share, as always. A big subject to keep working on as in living out, for sure.