Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Is there a shortcut to community?

I am massively committed to building community. It seems to me that people need other people and that they need them to know them well, to speak into their lives and to truly enjoy and appreciate the lives we have been given. The problem is that real deep community takes time. You can't instantly go from not knowing someone to having real life changing relationships. This has meant that I have heard it said, and almost undoubtedly said myself, that there is no shortcut to community. It simply takes time.

Whilst there is some element of truth to this I want to suggest that there is a shortcut to community and that is the gospel. Let me see if I can explain.

One of the keys to building deep community is an ability to be real with each other. Nothing gets in the way of real relationships like hypocrisy and putting on a show or front does. The gospel frees us up to be real with people because we no longer have to pretend to ourselves, or others, that we are better than we are. The gospel tells us that we are not better than we think but almost definitely worse and yet that we are still made in God's image and valuable despite this.

Another key to community is a freedom from the need for peoples approval. For as long as we need the approval of others then we can never really risk anything which we think might impact this. However, the gospel tells us that God accepts us despite knowing everything about us. This frees us from the need of other people's approval because we recognise that God's approval is more important.

Another key to community is a selfless focus on the other person. A community which is built around each person trying to get what they want or need from it us unlikely to be deep and long lasting. It will instead become manipulative and abusive. But at the heart of Christianity is a God who selflessly gave himself for his people. A God who was willing to go to the cross to rescue people. As we understand this then we become a people who can selflessly focus on the other knowing that we have already received so much.

Deep community also grows out of a feeling that the relationships which make it up are safe. That people are not going to judge or abandon you regardless. In the gospel we see a God who faithfully stuck by his people despite their repeated failures and repeatedly turning their back on him.

The gospel completely revolutionises the way which you see the world and other people and creates fertile ground for deep community. It creates an environment where being open and vulnerable and honest and loving and accepting is not only possible but the only natural response. A greater understanding and love of the gospel is the greatest shortcut to community. But it is a shortcut not a transporter. You will still need to spend time with the people. As relational people we build relationships we don't simply attach ourselves to other organisms and therefore this will still take time. But time spelt building relationships as the gospel works in you will build the deep relationships we all crave.