I had an awesome time last week with a number of brothers and sisters up on Vancouver Island, one of the truly lovely spots on the planet. We got a chance to process lots of various topics that they are thinking through in their transition from living a performance-based Christianity to an affection-based life in Christ. I find conversations around the Fatherhood of God, the work of Christ and how we live that out in our daily lives to be incredibly compelling, even if I am in similar conversations every week of my life.
The language of real community is real and compelling, far better than any kind of contrived entertainment. That’s why I react so when well-meaning people jump on the language of obligation to describe the relationships and gatherings of believers. Obligation is the language of religion. It wallows in the selfishness of “what we need” instead of inviting us into the irresistability of real relationships and passionate dialog. Only in the conversation of community can people really discover what God has already put in their hearts and be real enough to ask whatever question they need to ask and be challenged in their thinking beyond the status quo.
Here are a couple of examples of what the conversation of community triggers in people. The first I received after returning from a recent trip by someone who was part of our conversations:
I want to know you better–to meet your wife, to experience your world, to hear more about your journey. I love the way you challenge me and the way I feel safe wrestling openly in your presence. I want to learn more from you, experience more of Him beside you, ask more of you, and share more of my life with you. I want to celebrate more of what He’s done–and is continuing to do–among & through us. He blows me away every day and I’m drawn like a magnet to others who are passionate about discovering Him and worshiping Him together.
There are people in my life that I feel that way about as well. Being with them is never an obligation; it is an absolute joy and the fruit of it is to go back to life and live with a greater grasp on the Truth and greater freedom to live in grace.
Here’s another letter I published years ago from someone in Texas who was waking up to this reality:
It’s OK to question what I need to question, ask what I need to ask and struggle where I struggle. I’ve learned that I am not rewarded for pretending to be better than I am, but that experiencing the life of God means that I am loved through the ups and downs, hurts and joys, and doubts as well as triumphs. Instead of exploiting people’s shame or need for approval to try and make them better Christians, I encourage people to go to God for healing and restoration from shame so they can experience for themselves the love of God. Instead of loading others up with a list of `shoulds’, I tell people that God is working by “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” and his greatest desire is to communicate with them. I talk about learning “how to” listen to God and follow what he puts on their heart even if that means they make a mistake doing so. Instead of trying to change people I urge them to get to know Christ as life because it’s so much fun (and far more effective) watching him change them. Instead of manipulating others to do what I think would benefit me and my definition of God’s will for them, I’m learning how to trust Christ as my resource for what I need.
The conversations of community lead the most awesome engagements on this planet, be it with a mature believer or the newest member of the family, or even someone still lost in the world. Where people aspire to grow in grace and truth, and have the freedom to discuss it without fear or the need to manipulate others, the possibilities are truly limitless. Participating in them is not what I need to do; it’s what I simply refuse to live without.