Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nouwen on Community

Some people have this idea that Christian community is this really nice little tight group of friends, everyone happy and sharing together, and there are never any problems.

I don't think that's a healthy or a biblical picture of community. Henri Nouwen in The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life wrote:
The Christian community is... a community which not only creates a sense of belonging but also a sense of estrangement. In the Christian community we say to each other, "We are together, but we cannot fulfill each other... we help each other, but we also have to remind each other that our destiny is beyond togetherness." The support of the Christian community is a support in common expectation. That requires a constant criticism of anyone who makes the community into a safe shelter or a cozy clique, and a constant encouragement to look forward to what is to come.
Part of what I think Nouwen is saying is that we sometimes try to make "community" our God - and it isn't. Nouwen goes on:
Nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. In community we say: "Life is full of gains and losses, joys and sorrows, ups and downs - but we do not have to live it alone. We want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care.

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