Fred at “On the Journey” wrote a very good post last week called “Lessons From The Man Who Ate New Orleans.” The post was triggered by an event called A Place at the Table that Fred and his wife Jan participated in back in January.
Fred describes part of the event like this: “[W]e watched a film titled The Man Who Ate New Orleans, about a minister who ate at every restaurant in New Orleans to learn about the city and its people.The film discussed the seven cardinal virtues of New Orleans: community, generosity, openness to outsiders, celebration, resiliency, diversity, and tradition.”
There are some great things to think about in those “cardinal virtues,” but for this post, I’d like to focus on two paragraphs later in Fred’s post.
While thinking about community, Fred writes this:
Learning to live as a follower of Christ takes more than hearing a sermon, singing songs, or sitting in a class. It is not a private thing. It must be lived out in community with others, and that must go beyond what happens in a once-a-week gathering. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Jesus takes this further when he commands us to love as he loved us. That is a sacrificial love that can only be shown in relationship with others.
Living in community is messy, whether that community is a neighborhood in a city or a group of Christians. We’re dealing with human beings here! If we seek to live in community with other believers, we will get dirty helping other believers, we will be frustrated by other believers, and we will be hurt by other believers. Look all through Scripture and other histories. You will not find a Utopian community. We will sin against one another. That is why we are called to be people of grace and forgiveness. When we have a true view of sin, we can forgive others and love them. Forgiveness is one of the things we must practice in order to live in community, along with being a friend who listens and understands compassionately.
If you’re seeking to live in community in Jesus Christ, then I’d highly recommend that you think about what Fred wrote. None of us are perfect at following Jesus Christ and demonstrated the nature of our Father. Because we are not perfect, we will cause problems among our brothers and sisters in Christ. The problems are compounded when we realize that none of our brothers and sisters in Christ are perfect, and our imperfections and disobediences and preferences and selfishness will cause… well, like Fred said, a mess.
We are a messy people, even at our best. God loves us and forgives us in spite of our mess. In the midst of our messiness, God offers us grace.
This is an image of how we should treat one another in the midst of all of our mess: love, forgiveness, and grace.
The only other option is to stay away from other people, so that you don’t have to offer them love, forgiveness, and grace. But, for a follower of Jesus Christ, this is not a real option.