Sunday, February 24, 2013

Real Community

So, part of our "job" in our apartment complex is to help facilitate community. We host events, introduce people to each other, and support a "neighborhood" vibe in our highrise. The premise behind our job description is that people need community, and often want community, but don't have regular access to it. The longer I've been out of school, the more I've realized this is a reality in our culture. Without a "ready-made" network of classmates who live in close proximity to each other and whose schedules force them to interact, how is someone supposed to make friends? Walk into a bar all alone and say, "Hi!" to the first stranger they meet? 

What I've noticed since we moved in, though, is that community is hard. We want it, but we aren't used to it. When the majority of life is spent alone in an office or in front of a computer screen, real human contact feels awkward. Uncomfortable. And even when we make it past the initial "small-talk" stage with a neighbor or new friend, the inevitable challenges of a growing relationship lurk in the future. Being known more deeply means running the risk of skeletons being exposed-- and worse, being asked to change. 

This may sound dramatic, but I think the reality is that community is dramatic. It's risky, it's unpredictable, and it involves a vulnerability that our culture has taught us to avoid like the plague. And so, though we inwardly long to be known deeply, the fear of its accompanying challenges keep us comfortably behind our office desks, computer screens, and apartment doors. Oh sure, we may go to a party or two, and maybe even get together with friends on the weekend. But we'll keep it light, keep it safe, keep it on the surface.

Lately, I've been hearing a lot at school and church about how community is, in many ways, the essence of the Christian life. Because of sin, we were estranged from relationship-- community!-- with God (Col. 1:21). In Christ, He restored the breach so that relationship with Him can be renewed. Being a Christian means responding to God's saving acts in faith, and becoming His child (John 1:12), His friend (John 15:15), and His bride! (2 Cor. 11:2) In other words, what makes someone a Christian is not being able to recite facts about Jesus, but being brought into relationship with Him. As a Christian, I'm saved from sin, so that I can be saved to community: community with Him and therefore, community with others.

What's I'm learning is, this is the very thing that we most deeply long for and yet most desperately avoid. Our sin is what keeps us in hiding. God's grace is what covers our sin. The gospel-- God's saving acts on our behalf-- is what frees us to experience real community because in the gospel, God says, "I know the deepest parts of you, the parts you try to keep hidden from others. I see all your dark secrets and embarrassing insecurities. And I choose you anyway. I love you and invite you into relationship with Me." 

What the gospel teaches me is that there's a real reason my neighbors and I avoid being deeply known in community: sin. But what the gospel teaches me is that in Christ, we are not left alone to hide from real intimacy through our own self-protective methods. Rather, we can approach Him boldly and receive the transformation we so desperately need without fear of rejection or isolation, knowing that He accepts and embraces us before we have it all together. That kind of radical community is what gives us the courage ultimately to enter community with others. 

What are your hopes when it comes to being known by God and others?  What are your fears? How does the gospel change your story specifically? 

1 comment:

Lauren Winstead said...

LOVE this Hannah - you are so wise! I love reading what God puts on your heart to share, so encouraging!