the weblog of Alan Knox

Always Living but Never Arriving

Posted by on Sep 23, 2010 in community | 12 comments

Always Living but Never Arriving

Recently, while reading Lionel’s post “Pros and Cons of ‘Organic’ Church Meeting: Part 1 Cons,” I began thinking about living in community with others. You see, the thing about community is that we never “arrive.” At least, our community never becomes a perfect group of perfect people. There are always struggles.

Of course, this seems obvious, doesn’t it. But, it is always somewhat counter-intuitive. We get the feeling that if we put enough time into this thing we call community – if we live with one another like family for long enough – then life together will become easy.

In truth, we will always struggle with one another, primarily because we will always struggle with sin. I mean, think about it, even if I manage to go a day living in perfect harmony with God and others, chances are that others will not live perfect lives that day. And, on days when everyone else is living completely in obedience to God, I’m the one who has problems.

You see, we need one another, but the fact that we live together means that we will constantly struggle with one another, both because of our own sinfulness and self-centeredness, and also because of the sin and selfishness of others.

If we come together with one another with the false assumption that one day we will have perfect community, then we will be in for a rude awakening. As people change – their life circumstances – so will our community. As people move into or out of the area, our community will change. As children are born or parents die, the community will be different. There will constantly be new challenges and struggles.

So, we don’t live for that day when our community finally “makes it.” No, we live for today. We share today with one another. When someone fails, we forgive them. When we fail we ask for forgiveness. But, we keep living together, trusting in the presence and grace of God to bring us closer to one another and to him.

We must stop looking forward to that time when we can finally live in community. Instead, we must decide whether or not we’re going to share our lives with someone else today. If we choose to share our life with someone today, it won’t be perfect, but it will be a step toward more fellowship with one another – which, in John’s words, is more fellowship with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ.


12 Comments

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  1. 9-23-2010

    Alan you said:

    “If we come together with one another with the false assumption that one day we will have perfect community, then we will be in for a rude awakening. As people change – their life circumstances – so will our community”

    People change, their views change, their convictions change and the only thing is static is our commitment to love as Christ has loved through the power of His love.

    We will surely never arrive in community because like any other ecosystem it is ever evolving

  2. 9-23-2010

    On “arriving”, consider something else in this regard. Let’s say you are going to lay down the theological gauntlet, create your own new denomination/church constitution/etc. to “fix everything that’s wrong”.

    What if you did that five years ago instead of today? Would you still be there?

    Let’s say you’ve waited till now (since you have grown and now really have it all figured out). What would you think about your perfect denomination/constitution/etc. fix today five years from now?

    How much of our belief/practice is based on someone else’s “fix” because it lets us finish getting refined?

  3. 9-23-2010

    Lionel,

    So true. I’ve found that I want people to readily accept my own changes, but I’m not as likely to accept other people when they change.

    Eric,

    Exactly. In fact, that has happened often throughout history. Calvin rewrote and edited his “Institutes” several times through his life. But, when he died, his followers “fixed” his last edition.

    -Alan

  4. 9-23-2010

    Alan,
    This was very well said. I think I have been guilty of “waiting to arrive,” but I now I leave this post with the understanding that it will never happen–and that makes total sense. I am just getting to a place where I believe I have to just live and sort of go with the flow of life as it relates to the changes I experience in community. Thank you for sharing.

  5. 9-23-2010

    Bonhoeffer addresses this whole issue quite well in Life Together. Have you read it? If not, you really need to. It is a classic for good reasons.

    James

  6. 9-23-2010

    I’m reminded of th the though from Dietrich Boenhoffer that I believe I’ve even seen you list here. It goes something like: our idea of what Christian community is often what hinders true Christian community. This seems like a variation: Our vision of what Christian community can be will always be distracting us from true Christian community in the here and now. It’s powerful thought worth all of us considering.

  7. 9-23-2010

    I think if we see our community as family, we will realize that we never “arrive.” I don’t remember a time when I thought that my family would ever arrive. I had some dreams for my children, but if I had been waiting for them to perfectly follow Jesus, I’d be in despair right now. They love Jesus, but show it in different ways than I might choose. I know my wife will never be perfect, and to top it all off, they all have to put up with me. That guarantees we will never arrive.

    Any community is the same. There’s an old saying, “If you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it and mess it up.”

  8. 9-23-2010

    @ Fred,

    And those members definitely aren’t human :o

  9. 9-23-2010

    Javetta,

    Thanks for the comment. Yes, if we wait for the “perfect” community before we share our lives with others, we’ll never share our lives with others. But, we can all start now sharing our lives a little more with the people that we know.

    James,

    Yes, I have read Life Together. It’s a very good book!

    Travis,

    Good point. I think our “idea” of many things often hinders us from those very things… community included. Thanks.

    Fred,

    I guess if it only included me, then my community would be perfect (to me)… but it wouldn’t be much of a community. :)

    -Alan

  10. 9-23-2010

    The statement that Travis made is the quotation from Bonhoeffer I had in mind. Excellent observation.

  11. 9-23-2010

    Alan,

    Let me ask you something brother. There are a lot of blogs and books out there that talk about community and the right ways to do community, if I were to survey you, do you think they contribute to this illusion? I think they do. I remember reading books on “how” to do church and in them it seems to say if you follow this perscription then everything will be just fine. In my experience that has not been the case and learning to live with others is one of the most difficult things you would do. If you think about sort of like marriage and as someone pointed out a “real family”. (BTW Charity living with me is marital bliss, I am strong, dark, handsome and extremely intelligent just in case you wanted to know that).

  12. 9-23-2010

    Alan,

    You mean to tell me that, apart from Lionel, I’m NOT the model others should use as the standard. All of these years of trying to reproduce myself are wasted :)

    Maybe I’ve had my focus on the wrong person!