This is not what I had in mind. When I became a Christian, I though that I joined a family, that we all loved each other. Have you ever tried to get all the Christians in a room? I thought we were a body. But, not just any body– Christ’s. Far from his truth, we talk as if reconciliation is the hardest part of the Christian life. I beg to differ.
Death, dying to self, is the most difficult thing we will ever have to do. Here are the instructions Jesus left for us: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16.24). Jesus says that if we are traveling with him, then the only thing we need is the means by which we will die. “Pick up a cross and let’s get going.”
Because we have some dying to do. There should be little grave markers along the way. “Here lies pride.” “Arrogance, 1970-2018.” “Jealousy, never satisfied.”
Coming to terms with who we are is the real “come to Jesus meeting.” Two enter, one leaves. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3.30).
Still, there doesn’t seem to be much room for Jesus or his cross. Sunday services become pageants and the building is another money- making machine. I can’t wave and smile while being crushed. Tonight, I am questioning Christian community. Surely, this is not what Jesus had in mind. Christ did not die for our divisions.
While each ministry context is different, with its own interests and challenges, our goal as believers is to create authentic community, to emphasize our commonality in Christ. But, we do not create commonality around our cultural traditions, our socially constructed identities and affinity groups. Instead, we create community around the body of Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Together, “Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. … Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.”
For Bonhoeffer, membership and belonging are found in Christ. And there is no Christian community apart from him. His body is what brings us together. There are no cultural middle-persons, no priestly barterers that can provide or prevent passage into Christ’s presence. While multicultural/ intercultural churches are not the norm, it should be expected that persons from all walks of life can and do walk through the doors of the church. And if they don’t, why not?
I thought that we were a Christian community. When did we stop going from house to house? Why don’t we share all things in common? What happened to our life together?