Vacationing Quotes

As I soaked up the sun these past few days in Summerland, the following few quotes deserved some attention.

First, some insightful comments on the nature of Christian freedom from Rob Bell:

“We’re addictive creatures. We try things, we experiment, we explore, and certain things hook us. They get our tentacles in us, and we can’t get away from them. What started out as freedom can quickly become slavery. Often freedom is seen as the ability to do whatever you want. But freedom isn’t being able to have whatever we crave. Freedom is going without whatever crave and being fine with it.” (Rob Bell, Sex God, pg. 75).

Second, considering the constant search for understanding the latest Christian buzzword, “community” I found these thoughts from Henri Nouwen to be particularly helpful as I continue to explore the implications of this seemingly elusive, yet all important concept in our relationships:

“The word “community” usually refers to a way of being together that gives us a sense of belonging. Often students complain that they do not experience much community in their school; ministers and priests wonder how they can create a better community in their parishes; and social workers, overwhelmed by the alienating influences of modern life, try hard to form communities in the neighborhood they are working in. In all these situations the word “community” points to a way of togetherness in which people can experience themselves a meaningful part of a larger group.”

“Although we can say the same about the Christian community, it is important to remember that the Christian community is a waiting community, that is, a community which not only creates a sense of belonging but also a sense of estrangement. In the Christian community we say to each other, “We are together, but we cannot fulfill each other… we help each other, but we also have to remind each other that our destiny is beyond our togetherness.” The support of the Christian community is a support in common expectation. That requires a constant criticism of anyone who makes the community into a safe shelter or a cozy clique, and a constant encouragement to look forward to what is to come.” (Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out, pg. 153).

Basically, we need to be careful in our search for authentic community, not to elevate our church, friends, or family as representing the whole of what community is meant to be. People by themselves can never completely fulfill this need. While this may seem like a negative perspective on the possibilities of community, I take it the opposite, in that we are finally able to let go of our unreal expectations we place on the people around us, realizing that personal fulfillment is something no one person, or group of people for that matter, can ever provide for us. Nouwen continues by mentioning that “the basis for Christian community is not the family tie, or social or economic equality, or shared oppression or complaint, or mutual attraction … but the divine call.”

I think this realization has the potential for improving how we relate to others. Because as we share in this common experience of searching for the glimpses that God gives us for true community we may just lose some of our selfish expectations, perhaps even giving people a break here or there. Wouldn’t that be something!

Hopefully (and prayfully!) these are more than just words…


Peter Thurley said...

It is late at night, so forgive this comment if it makes no sense, but I think the idea of community depends not necessarily on a common divine togetherness, but rather on a common divine call to serve others. I think of the greatest commandment (Love God) and the second one (Love Others). Combine that with the story of the Good Samaritan, who saw that his neighbout, his fellow community member, was not someone who he might initially have thought. I wonder if 'Christian' community extends beyond the doors of the 'Church' (broadly construed) and instead into the world. Community means being willing to show you love God by loving others in a way that doesn't discriminate against them.


dwark said...

I'm not sure that it has to be one or the other. The church is something instituted by God, made up of individuals who gather together to participate in his kingdom (aka. God's project of restoring shalom). "Divine togetherness" and a "common divine call to serve" should both be foundational aspects of what it means to be participating with God in this world. Unfortunately we often become totally inward focused, dressing up our churches with a variety of self-indulgent programs to suit primarily our own needs. Or there is the other side which reacts against this by emphasizing the complete opposite, where the call to surrender our will on the basis of "loving God and others" evolves to the extreme of actually denying our personal self worth.

I am kinda flying by the seat of my pants in this response, so pardon me if it's confusing. The challenge I find is always applying the concepts to our actual experience of community. This is particularly challenging in response to the second part of your comment where you raise the challenge of Christian tolerance towards apparent "outsiders." It's becoming pretty clear that this is a major issue for churches as history moves ahead and the level of moral acceptance becomes more and more blurred. This is simply a matter of fact that Christian communities must first acknowledge before the question of tolerance is to be answered. In the swiftness of petition-signing reaction, we fail to recognize the true character of our culture. I think so many issues of tolerance are still unanswered because people are quick to label, rather than assess the situation and recognize the cultural environment. I guess if there is one thing I am realizing is that in order to avoid discrimination, our Christian communities need a good dose of patience to correct to well-intentioned, but often harmful reactions that take place against culture.

Again, how this looks practically, well, I am still workin' that one out!

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