I keep thinking about community. Community comes from the same etymological source as common. Right? Community has to do with what is in common.
What is Community?
In community, we want safety for ourselves and our property. We want to be able to have clear and upright business dealings, so that we’re not buying unsafe food or getting dangerous housing, broken transportation, etc.
But so many of the little commonalities have be lost: common courtesy, common sense, and common standards. Wasn’t there even common work ethic? Common goals?
Now it isn’t a surprise to return faulty products. LETTUCE gets recalled. And folks think it’s funny to lick someone else’s ice cream. There isn’t an eye roll in the world big enough to cover some of the low standards of this so-called progressive age.
Folks should wash their hands. Everyone should practice quality control, even in industrial ages. Yes, we’ve entered into a period of a highly diversified workforce, but if we don’t share similar concerns, the end result is still poor quality, unhappy customers, and a more disgruntled world. A world which does, in fact, affect even the wealthiest.
Individuals & Collectives
Some pride themselves on personal morality. They think that following their own set of rules is the course they should take. However, virtues are often best expressed in community. Honesty isn’t about being honest with yourself and then granting freedom to lie and steal from others. Courage isn’t about feeling confident about yourself while avoiding every risk associated with helping others. And self-autonomy, semi-virtue that it can be, can also undermine the common things that help hold communities together.
Morality and virtue do not need to be opposed! Quite the contrary! Yet individualism is elevated above community in almost every sense at just about every moment of time these days! And communities, such as the church, are depicted as cultish and brainwashing, far too inhibiting for personal morality.
The result seems to be that there are actually fewer choices and options available to people. Personal morality becomes both enslaving and idolatrous.
Can Community Be Avoided?
Yet don’t people have to interact with each other nearly every day? Aren’t we still intimately bound together by our food, security, and property?
My fear is that communities are cut apart piece by piece, locale by locale.
If someone disagrees with another, they can a) try to persuade each other, b) agree to disagree, or c) walk away with various resulting options. Can walking away be a good option? It can. On the other hand, losing the ability to persuade with honorable words is a significant loss. As is the ability to coexist with those who think differently.
When cutting ties is always an option, there is just not much left in common. What would be the point?
For that matter, whenever either personal choice or a person’s perspective is elevated to a highest level of good, what is left for what is in common?
So, Christians . . . ?
So what can a Christian do? Love and serve. Pour oneself out for the good of those around us.
Except. If there is not a community doing that, the individual will be deplenished. Water poured into sand is mostly water wasted. And isn’t community what should act as a basin, holding what is common so that excesses can spread to where it is needed?
As a writer, I don’t want to discourage my readers. I want to build up. God’s gifts surround us with a wealth unimaginable, even for those poorest among us.
Yet as a girl, I am torn. I would rather protect my daughters than to sacrifice for a larger, scarier community that could be a real source of danger.
These are the Two Kingdom kind of issues I want to hear and learn about. I want to hear about how congregations can be a safe bridge between individuals and the larger world. Because isn’t that the key? Pooling resources of a few so that gradually more needy can be served?
(No, I did not just equate the Church’s work with meeting only physical needs. Still, the Church does have obvious, biblical roles in charity roles and community outreach. Of course, the primary and prominent roles of the Church is in proclamation of the Gospel and administration of God’s means of grace. Yet secondary roles exist as well.)
Two Sides to the Coin
Is everything safe? No. I suspect hypocrisy makes things even less safe. But what can you do when a lot of people want to pretend that sex is safe, natural, and not a big deal when you’re scared of sex traffickers and child molesters? Or that they mostly think we need to forgive ourselves when actually sins affect other people, too.
So little is counted in common now! And a better swimming pool and local hospital won’t fix these issues!
What is common? Treating property like trash. Treating people as temporary and relationships as disposable.
I don’t mean to be a downer. There really is so much that is common! Our humanity! Let us cultivate humanity and humane practices! Let us research medicine, art, and so much more! There is creation with so many possibilities!
There is parenthood and childhood, and marriage which continues despite every misunderstanding and misapplication. Family endures. The devil may test it, and family may fail many, many times in many, many ways, yet God’s Word echoes throughout Creation. Love stirs, and not just lust.
Many of us, we may think, just want safety and a quiet livelihood. Well and good. However, I would hope that we also, in a perhaps understated or unstated way, also want our time and effort well spent, because spent they must become.
Isn’t that what society doesn’t want to face? The prices eventually to be paid? An end to youth and living it up?
Let’s spend well and share as we can. Let’s not walk away. Invest in others. We can even generally be around where we’re expected to be, because some day maybe those folks who walked away with walk back. Or maybe their kids can.
What is ultimately in common? All remains in God’s hands.
Lord, in so many ways our boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places. Be our portion. Guard and keep us. Grant that we may share in love toward others and in trust toward You, who provide for our every need, especially that greatest of needs, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
*Ok, I haven’t actually cleaned this up as much as I meant to, but I’ve been meaning to share some of my thoughts on these matters for a while now. Should I clean this up further or is it sufficient? What points would you add? What would you like to see?