Jul 31, 2012 11
I have a love/hate relationship with certainty. On the one hand, it need it to remind me that Jesus loves me and his forgiveness is new every morning. The words of scripture must be true or I’m sunk.
On the other hand, many of the times that I have been most certain have also been the times when I have been most wrong. Aside from the essentials of the Christian faith, I’ve dug my heels into sinking sand plenty of times only to end up stuck and disappointed.
We could say a lot about the inherent problems with certainty, but perhaps it’s most helpful to speak of humility and its essential role in the shaping of Christian community instead. For all of the poison that can come to community through certainty, we still need it. That makes humility a far more helpful way of speaking about our interactions with one another in the church.
My greatest lesson from the comments of this series has been the amount of gray areas in the church today and the fact that humility is our only hope for the future. The Christians in our churches have many more gray areas than we would assume, and when it is possible to acknowledge this diversity and complexity, we’ll make more people feel welcome and free to explore God where they’re at.
Perhaps one of the most harmful things we can do in community is to set a precise standard or blueprint for what the healthy community member looks like, believes, and does.
People are in process with their beliefs.
Other people are healing from past relationships.
Plenty are healing from negative church experiences.
A few aren’t even sure what they believe any more.
We find community in our shared goal of Christ, but that goal of Christ is a destination on a map we’ll never fully reach while we’re together on earth. Our common ground is based more on which direction we’re pointed than on who has achieved a certain status as a traveler.
Community takes shape around our traditions and styles and preferences, but ultimately, we find community in what we cannot attain here on earth. When we base community on the things we can see, measure, or control, we run the risk of making our Christian communities about side issues with a Christian veneer but none of the depth or sturdiness.
As I wrap up this series, I’d like to suggest that while we can find a thousand different ways to divide, but there’s only one way to unite as God’s people. As we each take responsibility for our own parts in fostering healthy Christian community, perhaps the best thing we can remember is that God’s people define black and white differently with gray areas shifting and changing from person to person.
If I want to win, I can convince myself that I have won by imposing my own black and white boundaries around others. However, if I want God’s community to win, I’m going to need to trust God to work in and through his people, hold loosely to some of my own categories, and patiently wait for God to show up among us as we unite around the essentials of our faith.
I am certain that we all have a role in creating the kinds of Christian communities where we can belong. The trick will be learning how to humbly ground ourselves in our particulars that inform where we’ve come from and how we worship God—our traditions especially—without using them as barriers or checklists that alienate those who would otherwise join our communities.
Deep down we all desire to belong to a community, a group that accepts us despite our flaws and supports us when we struggle. It is my great joy as a follower of Jesus to note that such a community is the very thing he created while among us.
A Note to My Readers
I am deeply grateful for the comments and e-mails you’ve shared with me throughout this series. It has been a wonderful, healing process to write through my past and present experiences of belonging to Christian community, and I hope to take these posts deeper in the form of a book in the near future. I’m especially grateful to my friends at St. Paul’s Church who played a huge role in my restoration to Christian community.
The next series of posts in the Monday-Wednesday slot will be about discipleship in conjunction with the release of my co-authored book Hazardous, particularly about what it means to live out costly discipleship. How do we hear the voice of Jesus today? What does it look like to literally “follow” a God you can’t see? When should we step out in faith and take risks for God and when are we reckless?
The Women in Ministry Series will continue on Fridays, and on Thursdays I’ll be launching a new series about being a stay at home/work from home dad. My hope in this series is to avoid parenting topics and instead to address gender roles, our culture’s/church’s expectations for men, and the possibility that “nontraditional” careers and family structures can work.