Thursday, September 13, 2007

Who is in your community?

One of the things that has long bugged me about my own experiences of community and I guess my own shortcomings is about who is in included in community. I mean really. I know the theory of church is of course that ALL are welcome, but are they really welcome? 

We've been blogging around community over the past week but I've always found that we can be a bit warm and fuzzy about who's included, usually friends, people we get on with, people who make us laugh, people just like us. But what if they're not like us, what happens then?

The lonely, I've found, are often lonely for a reason. Sure, there are those who are lonely because of bereavement or circumstances, in another time or place they wouldn't be lonely. It isn't too difficult to make room for and care for such people.

But there are other people who are lonely for entirely different reasons. They're lonely because they alienate people, the difficult people, the socially inept, the awkward, the uncomfortable people, the people who are emotional black holes and who suck all the life out of you. The person who mistimes every comment, talks too much is confrontational or manipulative, the broken hurting and lonely people of this world. They may well be victims and misfits but Christ loves them all the same. Bringing them into genuine community is a real challenge, more often than not the one thing they need the most is the one thing they're least equipped to handle. 

On my own, I think of these people and the mere thought of loving them exhausts me and wears me down, the cost too great, the price too high. Ironically it's only the resources of a genuine community that has the strength to pull each other as well as the difficult blighters through. Genuine love and acceptance I truly believe is life transforming, for all concerned. 
The problem is that we live private lives, fragmented lives and isolated lives and therefore there is precious little room for the lonely. 

So who is in your community?


Tim Simmonds on 13 September 2007 at 12:02 said...

Very cool.

One of the reasons I have been reluctant in my blog to say churches should share everything and spend lots of time together is because of all the things you wrote.

I guess if we do these things together (with people who dont suck the life out of you) then it becomes a whole bunch easier.

ianjmatt on 13 September 2007 at 12:54 said...

I tihk this is a great post Phil. Community is really only created when we can include 'difficult' people, and only a community has the stregnth and resources to make this happen.

One thought though - it can seem pretty patronising to think of the 'normal' and adjusted people making the community and the misfits being brought in. In truth, we are all just fools, ragamuffins and misfits anyway - community happens when we all gather with all of our lives - which are really just screwed up in different ways.

Phil on 13 September 2007 at 16:14 said...

Certainly not intended to be patronising or suggest that we have no faults - but its 'normal' middle class Christians who are doing all the agonising about sharing with each other, it seems hard enough to go deeper as it is with people 'like me' but if that's where it stopped, that doesn't seem good enough - I think that was my point anyway....

Blue, with a hint of amber on 19 September 2007 at 13:45 said...

That is an interesting discussion.

I am just as weird to them as they must seem to me.

Does a "community" HAVE to be heterogeneous?

We need a common ground. We need an inclusivity. If I have no commmon ground can I really have inclusivity?

Within the Church we are all brothers and sisters in Christ etc etc, but is that actually enough to live in community - as oppose to just being united in Christ?

DO I need to share my life with every single other believer, or a smaller group of believers who I share significant common ground with? People are often excluded as much by their own choices as they are by others.

matthew hosier on 22 September 2007 at 22:08 said...

If I dare mention Pilsdon again, its very strength seems to be its ability to cope with difficult people - a challenge for those of us who want to run screaming from 90 minutes of being in a small group with your average 'challenging' person.

I don't know enough about them, but I think the Jesus Army pulls this off as well.

There has to be a certain robustness with people so that community isn't undermined, but also a generosity so that community is made possible.

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