I am convinced that without community we cannot experience God. Without the weird, the awkward, the inept, the hurtful, the hilarious, the mothering, the teaching, and the forthcoming we cannot get a true picture of who God really is. Unity in the Body was one of Christ’s main messages, one of his main battles. Sometimes, I wonder if Jesus is more at home in the healing contentions within the church than he is in the painfully comfortable, well maintained prayer meetings, free from honesty. Perhaps Jesus is more honored by our confessions of failure in a community setting, than by the quiet internal battles we believe to be noble.
If we don’t encounter the irritating, how can we learn mercy? If we don’t encounter the hurtful, how will we ever learn grace?
Our lives are changed by our interactions with people. Our hearts are sustained by loving relationship and support. We are challenged by the annoying, and edified by the elderly. We get more growth in compassion as we sit beside the tired haggard mother who is desperately trying to keep her kids quiet and in one place for 2.3 minute, than being able to listen to the sermon on the same topic. Perhaps it is more helpful to hold the hand of the single mother, to sit next to the drunk alcoholic, to engage the socially awkward than to have a really good prayer time for them.
How are we doing community? Are we committed to the “other” even though they are so annoying we’d rather throw coffee at them then sip it with them? Do we hold the tired mother’s baby? Are we hugging the reeking addict? Do we converse with the missionary who is “doing it all wrong”?
Or do we sit in our comfortable seat, with our comfortable friends, presenting a very comfortable image?
Perhaps the old adage “You cannot love another until you truly love yourself” is less true than “You cannot love yourself until you truly love another”.