I’ve been thinking about what makes for a more meaningful community recently. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about what makes for non-community. What are the forces that exist in a person or culture that work against the construction of “family” level relationships with others? To have what Scripture calls “brothers and sisters” is really something that is profoundly attached to God’s plan for us, and not just an encouraging resource for “those that need it.”
The family of God is supposed to express the closest thing we have to perfect community on the earth. A place where extreme vulnerability is matched by authentic relational security. Trust, ministry to needs, mutual sacrifice, kindness, hope, love, joy, encouragement, support, serving one another and forgiveness should abound. Dysfunction will always be present as we continually invite in new members of the church family and grow ourselves but there should always be a more radical and obvious example among us of what deeper more meaningful relationships look like and mean. God’s household should reflect profound levels of trust and love.
Unfortunately, in this age you will find a bewildering level of narcissism and social immaturity present even among leaders in some churches. In many ways we are a very sick society and that sickness has infected the church and it’s integrity when it comes to actually loving people and practicing a genuine church life that expresses a healthy established family level of community.
Some of the elements that break down this household God is constructing are more obvious than others. I’ll list a number of things I have witnessed.
- A Culture of Busyness. We are engaged in too many things and not enough purposed, intentional interface with strategic persons or families. We have “spread ourselves to thin.”
- Deep Levels of Insecurity. More and more people have what I call debilitating insecurity that locks them up socially and inverts what a normal healthy relationship should be about. This prevents the next item…
- A Lack of Honesty / Vulnerability. Without cultivating a practice of being honest with yourself and others relationships cease to ever reach places of meaningful conversation that are helpful. Confession is good for the soul and does not always mean we are dumping each and every secret as they occur in conversation. It does mean that we learn to speak the truth to one another in love and that truth is on our lips more regularly.
- Devoid of Revelation. A steady diet of entertainment feeds into this although there are other reasons for a lack of revelation. Without seeing the value and true nature of relationships spiritually we will not respect them. It will lead to continued independence as is culturally acceptable and encouraged. If someone realized that God’s chief purpose in eternity is to construct from His people a household and community that expresses and represents Him in the earth they might see their interaction as more than a mere resource but something attached to their destiny. Revelation, a peeling back of dark muddy shadows and clear view of things as they are is essential to being coordinated by God in deeper relationships with others.
- Callous Hearts. This one I am sure sounds religiously critical but I do think that we can develop a dullness toward God through resistance to His working in our lives. This dullness creates a drain on capacities for empathy, patience, kindness and generosity. Understanding and hope when it comes to people is not typically very accessible in a bitter heart. Resentment, cynicism, malice and the like all smother and suffocate empathy. They slam the door of personal ministry hijack peoples minds with condescending and destructive dogma. Principled hatred.
- Narcissism. We can’t stop concerning ourselves with ourselves. How does this effect me? What is my return? “Oh the work of being around that person.” We measure the value of everything through the lens of your typical corporation. We have a sort of social economy that’s occurred whereby people become commodities as sourcing mechanisms. The more a person entertains us, makes us feel good, helps us, tells us what we want to hear or is seen as accenting and enhancing who we are the more we “value” that relationship.
Some of this is natural thinking but when we become more militant or intense in this expectation we lose our way. Anger and resentment should not issue from our lives every time someone fails to meet this expectation of serving us. The self-absorption has broken down the strength of community to the point where it often feels like “every man for himself” when it comes to real issues or struggles we may encounter in life.
The feeling that no one around you is committed to the group, mission or ideal of family above themselves is frightening and chilling. It creates an erosion of hope and faith in others. It nags at us.
Do we have any room in our hearts for others or is our mind filled with the image of ourselves? Obsessing over ourselves manifests itself as a barrage, even an onslaught of personal concerns, affairs, desires, aspirations and anxieties that ultimately, blind the mind and hijack every conversation with participate in.
Please consider the above and ask God to increase your capacity for clarity and then be willing to be honest with yourself in that light so that we can see our relationships go to a deeper more meaningful level. Do we see the wonder of each person that God loves and sees?
May we become more healthy and see hurt pass. May we learn to love and make room for others. May we become more socially able, and in the end, mean more to others. TAKE THE TIME! I plan on continuing to outline these elements and hopefully create a visualization or two so your input is appreciated.