Finding Balance in Community
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
Biblical Balance of Community Life
Communities can produce things. They can make events, gatherings and mobilize for protests, rallies, and causes. They can also make cheese and wine, beer and pretzels, t-shirts, chat groups or wristbands. They can show new and better methods in hobbies, habits, human interests, culture or agriculture. Communities together can build hospitals, service centers or schools, they can further and introduce culture through their music, media, books, or creative arts. So, it is true that communities can produce things, make things and share things. However, it is also true that these things do not necessarily give life and meaning; and the mission of a Christian community is to give life and meaning to all who attempt to connect to it, that is to say, to welcome - to love. This welcome and love transmit new hope and new meaning to them. In the context of the work-life-balance series, communities can produce this most important thing - biblical balance. The mission then of the Christian community is to produce life and reveal meaning. Mission is revealing to others their fundamental beauty, value and importance in the universe, their capacity to love, to grow and to do beautiful things and to meet God. Mission is transmitting to people a new inner freedom and hope; it is unlocking the doors of their being so that new energies can flow; it is taking away from their shoulders the terrible yoke of fear and guilt. To give life to people is to reveal to them that they are loved just as they are by God, with the mixture of good and evil, light and darkness that is in them: that the stone in front of the tomb in which all the dirt of their lives has been hidden, can be rolled away. They are forgiven; they can live in freedom.
Jesus wants each one of us individually to bear fruit, but he also wants us to bear much fruit in community, and then we become his disciples (John 15).
All living beings give life. Thus, from generation to generation we have bird, fish, animals, tress, flowers and fruit – the incredible fecundity of creation as life flows from one being to another. Man, and woman together give life, conceiving and giving birth to a child. And that is just the physical and biological part aspect of procreation. Once the baby is born, and even before birth, the parents give life to the child, and reveal to him/her its beauty by the way welcome and love it. Or else they may bring inner death to the child, making it feel ugly and worthless through the way they reject or over-protect it. Through love and tenderness, through welcome and the gift of attention, we can give life to people and life to community. That is biblical balance.
Jesus whole message is one of life-giving and giving-life. He came to give life and to give it abundantly. He came to take away all the obstacles that prevent the flow of life. The glory of God, wrote Irenaeus in the second century, is people fully alive, fully living. Jesus came to announce good news to the poor, freedom to the oppressed and imprisoned, and sight to the blind. He came to liberate, to open up new doors and avenues; he came to take away guilt, to heal, make whole and to save. And He asks His disciples to continue this mission of life-giving, of abundant new growth and of liberation. That is the true mission of every Christian community.
Biblical Balance of Covenant with the Community
People enter a community to be happy. They stay in that community when they figure out that real happiness comes in making others happy. At the beginning, almost everyone finds their early days in community ideal. It all seems perfect and everyone seems awesome. Because of the good will and good feelings they seem unable to see the drawbacks and difficulties of genuine community; they only see what is good. Everything is marvelous; everything is beautiful; they feel that they are surrounded by saints, heroes or, at least, exceptional people who are everything they want to be themselves. And then comes the period of letdown – generally linked to a time of tiredness, a sense of loneliness or stressfulness, some type of personal setback, disappointment or conflict. During this time of “disillusion”, everything becomes dark and distant; people now only see the faults of others and the community; everything and everyone gets on their nerves and is frustrating. They feel they are surrounded by hypocrites who either think only of rules, regulations and structure, or who are completely disorganized and incompetent. Negativity and criticism sets in and life in community becomes intolerable.
The greater their idealism of the community at the start, the more they put people on pedestals, the greater the disenchantment. It’s from a height that you fall down into a pit. If people manage to get this second period they come to a third phase – that of realism and a true commitment, of covenant. Members of the community are no longer saints or devil, but people – each a mixture of good and bad, each growing and each with their own hope. It is at this time of reality and clarity that people put their roots down. The community is neither heaven nor hell, but planted firmly on earth, and they are ready make the journey and to walk with you and walk with me. They accept the other members and the community as they are; they are confident that together they can grow towards being and doing something more beautiful and more wonderful than they had ever believed. To Love beyond Love.
Biblical Balance of Community in Unity
A community is not simply a group of people who live together and love each other. It is a place of resurrection; and a fluid current of life giving movement: one heart, one soul, one spirit. It is people, very different from one another, who love each other and who are all reaching towards the same hope and celebrating the same love. This is what brings the special atmosphere of joy and welcome which characterizes true community.
Loving is not a voluntary act which involves controlling and overcoming our own sensibilities – that is just the beginning. It also demands a purified heart and feelings which go out spontaneously to the other. These deep processes can only come through a gift of God, a grace which springs up from the deepest part of ourselves, where the Holy Spirit lives.
I will give them a new heart, and put and spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh.
Jesus has promised to send us the Holy Spirit, to indwell us with this new energy, this strength, this quality of heart which will make it possible for us to truly to welcome the other – even our enemy – as he or she is, possible for us to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things. Learning to love takes a lifetime, because the Holy Spirit must penetrate even the smallest corners of our being, all the place where there are fears, defenses, and envy.
In His last conversation with the disciples/apostles, Jesus prayed three times that they should be one as He and Father were one, ‘that they should be consumed by unity.’ These words are sometimes applied to unity between Christians and different churches, but they apply first and above all to unity between people and within communities. All communities should be working towards this unity – ‘one heart, one soul, one spirit’. It seems to me that we should ask a special gift of the Holy Spirit – the gift of unity and communion in the deepest sense, and with all implications. This is truly a gift of God to which we have the right and duty to aspire.
Jesus’ prayer is astonishing. (John 17) His vision goes much further than our imagination or wishes. The union of the Father and the Son is total. Each community should be working toward this union. But it can only reach it in and through the Holy Spirit. As long as we live, all we can do is get up each day and walk humbly towards it.
Biblical Balance in the Journey of the Community
The Community for Myself
Myself for the Community
Worshipping, Leading and Serving
The Community for God and Ministry to others