I found this especially applicable to some of the thoughts and conversations I’m having about community these days:
People cannot get along with each other because they cannot get along with themselves, and they cannot get along with themselves because they cannot get along with God.
Every relationship we have gets twisted because we have no idea who Father is and how he’s invited us to engage him. Most of our conformity-based attempts at community fail precisely for this reason. Just to manage people we need an endless set of rules and hierarchies to keep order. All the while the real problem goes unaddressed. Until people learn how to live deeply in God, they will undermine their own attempts at community. And trying to manage people who can’t get along with God will lead to repressive, obligation-based environments that provide only an illusion of community if people cooperate on the same task. But each will be trying to get what they want from the others, and when they are disappointed they will default to manipulating them. To guard against that, “leaders” set up rules to curtail the selfishness of others, freeing them to pursue their own.
That’s why I’m convinced that community is the connection God gives between those who are living loved. Because if Jones’ statement above is true, surely it’s corollary is as well: People who get along with God, will be at peace with themselves, and they will get along with others freely. They won’t need relationships to be managed because they’ll live in the glorious order that comes from loving others and preferring them above themselves. Such people will see guidelines and hierarchies as false substitutes for helping people really come to grips with who God is.
That’s why real community is not a goal we can achieve; it’s the fruit of people who are learning to live loved by the Father.