The Mess of Community

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about community…what it is, how it works, the good, the bad and the ugly of it.  The way we change it and the way it changes us.

Honestly, I am almost at a point where I hate the word. It’s a favored buzz word at the moment I think, which means everybody is using it and not surprising, we end up with our own perception of what it means, how to live in it, and how it works bumping up against someone else’s perception of what it means, how we should live in it and how it works.

Talking with a friend a few weeks ago,  she reminded me that we’re not all on the same page. But that doesn’t have to mean that someone else is on the wrong page.

And that right there is the crux of what makes community messy.

It’s tempting and easy to dismiss others as loving the community less or not protecting the community enough if they don’t love it or protect it the same way we do.

Communities don’t exist in a vacuum. The community of my home overlaps and connects to the community of my church, and in our case both of those communities overlap and connect to our school community.

In talking my way through this with Rob I gained a little clarity. Although the church has primacy institutionally, there is no set-in-stone tier of which community comes first. There are boundaries for each of them though. A father has the authority to tell his kid to get a haircut but a pastor doesn’t have that same authority (unless it’s his own kid). A pastor may be in a position to not allow someone to come to the Lord’s table, but a parent doesn’t have that same authority.

What I am coming to understand is that we have to use a Trinitarian view when living in community. Just as the Father, Son and Spirit exist to serve, honor and glorify the others, so must all the various communities we live in seek to serve, honor and glorify the other. There is giving, an ebb and flow to healthy communities when each community has, at its center, a desire to serve the other.

There are times when there is a clear and present danger in one community and it certainly needs to be addressed. Sometimes it may just be the one community functioning for it’s good in a way that another community doesn’t feel is right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong for that first community to be acting upon a matter the way they have. The pastor may really wish little Buddy would cut his hair, but if the family is good with lil’ Buddy being able to tuck it behind his ears then so be it.

Last week Sam and I went to an art exhibit. The artist uses Legos to make huge and amazing sculptures. When asked why that medium, a child’s toy, his response was that he takes something common and transforms it into something new and different…something greater than the sum of it’s parts.

We have to be willing to not think so highly of our part that we forget that together, working for the good of each other~ community within community~ is the medium THE Artist uses to transform us into something  new and different and all together greater than the sum of the individual parts.


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