Monday, September 15, 2008

Thoughts on Community

- Community as an ideal is best expressed in the relationship of the Trinity. The definition of an ideal community is persons in right relationship. There is Unity, Order, Harmony, and Fellowship within the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are of one mind. Each member plays his role perfectly. Each person is unique. Interaction is at its fullest potential.

If our community is to reflect God's community, we must be in right relationship to one another. We must be of one mind, playing our unique roles and interacting with one another to our fullest potential.

This ideal is an impossible feat to reach, but is helpful for casting a vision to work toward. The ideal community is a noun, but what we do to get there is more like a verb. This group exists to try and discover by study, conversation, and experience what we can do to attempt to reach such lofty heights.

We know that we will fall short, and we rest in the provision of our Messiah, the Lamb upon whose righteousness we rest our hope. However, we are compelled by Paul in Romans 6 not to cheapen grace by leaning on it more than we must. So we are attempting to "do community" so that we might learn how to be in perfect community with God and mankind, which is the full extent of the law and the prophets; what Israel has called "The Great Shema" (Deuteronomy 6, Matthew 22:36-40).

As we deepen our relationships, we ascend to the heights of community. This is not an unending cycle, but rather a staircase to fixed destination.

In order to interact with another person, we must have a commitment to do so. A commitment toward one thing is always in exclusion of something else. This often causes a conflict of some kind, because of an infringement upon percieved rights. For example, if I make a commitment to a poker night, this excludes my wife from spending time with me. If she has a percieved right to time with me, then we are in conflict. Peace will only occur with the surrendering of rights. Both sides must be in agreement before the conflict is resolved. Peaceful resolution of a conflict occurrs only when one or both sides surrender freely to the percieved rights of the other party. With peace comes trust. If there is no percieved threat upon my rights, I trust you not to harm me. If I trust you not to harm me, I will lower my defenses. This is called vulnerability, from the latin vulnaire (to wound). When we are vulnerable, we are able to be wounded, but we are also able to interact at a deeper level of intimacy. Intimacy creates an even deeper commitment, and we move closer toward interaction at our fullest potential. If at any point the cycle is broken, we return to conflict. Failure to peaceably resolve conflict and interact will always result in further conflict and will never deepen a relationship.

It has been suggested that two "kindred spirits" could interact at ever-deepening levels without conflict. In theory this is true. That is the nature of the ideal community, The Trinity. The nature of the open interaction, complete surrender, and infinite harmony do give Him/Them a conflictless rleationship. But they do not reach perfect interaction. They/He is/are perfect from eternality. There is therefore no ever-deepening level of love even with Him/Them. We are only deceiving ourselves if we believe we fallen men will reach our fullest potential for relationship with other fallen men without conflict. Possible? Maybe. Likely? No.

When the Lawyer asked who his neighbor was, the Teacher reversed the question and asked who he was a neighbor to. This is the first step. Community cannot be self-centered. Community is not about meeting your need to belong. It's about belonging to the needs of others.

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