Monday, October 20, 2014

A Warning Label: In Which Things Get Real

*It's Day 20 of the 31 Day Writing Challenge, which is why I'm still talking about intentional community. (-; If you're interested in reading yesterday's post and maybe even following along for the rest of the series, check that out here: 31 Days of Intentional Community *

After all that warm fuzzy talk about how fabulous real community can be, I feel like it might be necessary to slap a small warning label on intentional community. I'll let Dietrich say a few words and then we can discuss amongst ourselves...

Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin. - Bonhoeffer, Life Together

So, here's the situation. If we're serious about being a part of a heart-deep community where people invite each other into their messy lives, then we should probably prepare ourselves for the occasional "severe reprimand" Bonhoeffer refers to.

We know that eventually we are all going to be in need of a bit of tough love. A community of imperfect, in-process people is going to require real talk about sin and possibly the occasional minor (or perhaps major) intervention. Community is made up of actual human beings and because people can at times be weird, temperamental, awkward, pouty, selfish, and a dozen other things you might also describe your toddler as at any given moment, there are going to be sin issues that need to be handled. If your community is trying to actually love one another in any sincere kind of way, this is just part of the deal.

The whole already-but-not-yet kingdom situation we're in means that we shouldn't be too surprised when one of the members of our fellowship has some issues, or makes a significant mistake, or gets their feelings hurt too easily, or has a meltdown, or kills a man in Reno. Except, you should be surprised if that last thing happens.

This is where the grace of community comes in. Despite the temptation to not deal with things and just sweep them under the rug with a big ol' "bless your heart," instead stuff has to be dealt with, which will probably be uncomfortable and make things hard for a bit. But, at the end of the day, it's critical that we seriously deal with each others' sin while also offering armloads of grace.

A community where nothing is required of you and no one holds you to any kind of standard is not real fellowship. The hope is that someone cares enough about us to notice when we start down a road that will be hard to come back from and that they lead us back to the gospel with grace and compassion.

Last night our community group met on our back deck because the weather was perfection and it felt criminal to be inside. We talked about the Samaritan woman at the well and how compassionately Jesus addressed her sin and encouraged her to leave it behind. And then we went on to talk about, because we're not Jesus, how in relationships, we need to earn the right to speak into someone's sin. We need to know that we are genuinely valued before our sin gets pointed out. This is one of the most powerful things about being a part of an intentional community. People know us and love us well enough that we can hear a reprimand from them and trust that it is absolutely out of their hope that we can be better.

Living in deep community with one another makes it possible for our real selves to be known and treated with grace and gentleness, especially when we're off-roading in the wrong direction.

I know I desperately need others to point out my blind spots and love me enough to tell me when I'm choosing my sin over what's true. And to experience that sort of kind intervention, I have to be in intentional fellowship with people who love Jesus and love me.

It's a little scary to willingly accept this kind of relational vulnerability. But, how much better is it to be drawn back into community by friends who care enough to compassionately reprimand us rather than be casually abandoned to our sin by acquaintances who just aren't invested enough to say anything.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend.
~ Proverbs 27:6


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