Your community: friend or foe?

Remove Shame – Cleanse the lepers: restore to community (part two)

Always think of yourself as everyone’s servant; look for Christ Our Lord in everyone and you will then have respect and reverence for them all.                 St. Teresa of Avila

The community we are a part of sets us on a particular trajectory. It can name us; limit or release us; hurt or heal us; promote life or death. Jesus’ word to the leprous community in Luke 17 cleansed them from their shameful disease. (See previous post.) Before their encounter with Jesus, the unclean lepers were forced to separate themselves from the clean; by default they entered a community in which the sole admission requirement was that you were sick and unwelcomed by your former family and society. Living together in this context reinforced their sense of shame.

Jesus’ cleansing word gave a healed life and an opportunity to reenter the world of the “clean.” It still does. His touch, word and presence invites us into a community of people like us; people whose shameful and isolating diseased-filled lives have been addressed by the Lord of life. We are the community of the beloved. Our admission to this community is the love of God given us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Consider this description of the community of Christ’s beloved: “We are people living the whole of our lives in common with one another because of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

We are people (actively, in real time, in the present, dynamic moment) living our whole lives (all aspects of our life, not just our spiritual experience, but our entire, complete lives, the good. the bad and the ugly) in common with (together with, alongside, corporately, in union with) one another because of the Lordship of Jesus Christ (not to promote a cause or self, but to promote the cause and person of Jesus Christ.)

Living in this type of community transforms. Here are some thoughts about community gleaned from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.

  • God initiates community, to yearn for fellowship/community is a yearning from God’s heart. (We are created to live in relationship, not in isolation.)
  • Christian Community should not be taken for granted, to physically fellowship with other believers is a blessing. (This privilege is not everyone’s reality.)
  • In Community, we can know the unity intended for us in heaven. It is in fact preparation for heaven.
  • We can experience in the companionship of another believer a physical sign of the gracious presence of God.
  • We can receive and meet one another as you would the Lord. (What you do to the least of these you do to me. Matt 25)

More on the life-giving role of community living in my next post. This material is taken from the Shaped at the Garden retreat. For information about this retreat, contact me or check out the events section.)

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