Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes that, “when Christ calls [a person], he bids [them] come and die.” This is a message that Jesus repeats time and again: no one can follow him unless they are willing to take up the cross. The way of Jesus is one marked with unspeakable joy, but also with tremendous suffering. When we choose to follow him, we are baptized into his life, but also into his death.
Genuine community is a place where our hopes and dreams come to die. Living in the cross of Christ together, we must reckon with life and human relationships as they are, rather than as we wish they were. If before we held out hope that one day we would find the ideal human community, the presence of genuine community in Christ shreds any such expectations. Real community is messy, frustrating, beautiful, hard work. Such community forms through conversations about dirty dishes left in the sink; taking out the trash or vacuuming when no one asked; and staying up late talking with a friend who had a hard day.
Authentic fellowship is found only in our willingness to accept one another just as Christ has accepted us: as sinners whom God loves deeply, despite all odds. If God can forgive us the mess we have made of his world, surely we can bear the burden of living with our fellow human beings who let us down.
- What has been your experience of life in community – whether with a scattered collection of friends, a congregation, or a household?
- Can you remember times when your desires and ideals for community clashed with the reality of shared life?
- What does it look like to embrace a gentle, serving spirit, rooted in the cross of Christ?