I'm only as sharp as the last book that I read. Consequently I try my best to keep up on my reading.
This week I'm devouring a book by Shawn Claiborne called "Irresistible Revolution." The premise of the book is that we Christians are called to live a life of truly authentic Christianity. Claiborne unpacks this authentic Christianity in terms of community. He then gives examples of what that could look like in this world. Claiborne critiques everything from women in ministry to the war in Iraq, but his controlling paradigm is community and its necessity for Christian growth.
The theme of community is certainly not something new. In the Bible, the "called out ones" (individuals) are members of one body (community). A cursory reading of the Old Testament evidences how the writers speak quite purposely of community, and of course most of the New Testament is written to or for communities.
On a personal level our very lives are centered around varying levels of community. From the smallest community (family) to the largest (global economic and/or peace issues) we are constantly shaping and being shaped by our community.
In Larry Morris' book, "Making a Marriage," he writes about the importance of community in the context of marriage, "When we're at home, we learn to survive home. And when we become adults, we just replicate in our adult relationships what seemed to work for us at home. These patterns, habits, sensitivities, and tendencies stick with us." His point here is, that for good or bad, the way we deal with various situations as adults is profoundly shaped by the community who raised us.
Some communities we cannot choose. The fact that we (most of us anyway) were born here in the United States probably in Minnesota is not something that we determined or even had a voice about. Where we lived when we were children was most likely not up to us and was out of our control.
To the degree, however, that it is possible to choose our community, that choice becomes one of the single most important decisions we will make. One of the main indicators of what a person is going to be like in five years is who that persons friends are right now. In other words the old saying "birds of a feather flock together" turns out to be at least semi-true.
And so it should be no surprise that Proverbs has much to say about the people we hang around with. Right away in the very first Proverb in verse 10 Solomon writes, "My child, if sinners entice you, do not consent", or "Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat" 23:20, or "Do not envy the wicked, nor desire to be with them" 24:1, and the list could go on and on.
It used to drive me crazy when my mom and dad would ask me about my friends. Questions like "what are their names?", and "who are their parents?" all seemed like nosey, questions until I got a little older and began hearing those same questions come out of my mouth to my children. And, I bet, they will be coming out of my children's mouth to their children, and I know that my grandparents asked my mom and dad those questions ,too.
Some things never change because some truths are simply unchanging. Who we are currently hanging around with or onto, tells us a lot about who we are and what we will become.
John Maxwell writes of four kinds of people when it comes to relationships and then he says what to do with them: 1. Some people add something to life (they lighten our burdens and cheer us up) We enjoy them. 2. Some people subtract something from life (they do not bear our burdens but simply make our burdens heavier) we tolerate them. 3. Some people multiply something in life (these are people who genuinely care about you and not only want to see you succeed but are willing to help you do it) we value them. 4. Some people divide something in life (these are people who are only concerned for themselves and would intentionally harm you or those you love) we avoid them.
When it comes to community it would be good to ask two questions who are you hanging around with? Are you surrounding yourself with people who love you and want you to succeed, or are you settling for the leftover attention that dividers are willing to dole out?
Finally, and this is what is most important, what kind of a friend are you? What kind of an example of Christian addition, and multiplication are you? What kind of community does your life and your example say to those in your sphere of influence? Lord, let us live community not just talk about it, and may we be found to be one of those rare individuals who laugh, love and live Christian community toward all we meet.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.