If You Were Only Like Me a Little More...
“When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God's. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves."
I am an extrovert through and through. I love people, I love stories, I love laughing - anything that involves being together with a group of people gets me excited.
In a conversation with a friend this week, we were discussing our church and what it looks like to be a welcoming place; a place that brings in hurting people and gives them the space to interact with the gospel in a real and authentic way. As we were talking I had one of those ‘a-ha’ moments...one of the painful ones that you don’t really enjoy but you know it’s necessary...
Most of my life I have been all about ‘building community.’ I really desire to see people come together (especially around food!) and share in life together - the joys, the excitement, the fulfillment, the pain, the hurts, the frustrations. I generally get along with most people, and like to think of myself as a decent conversationalist. The past year I’ve really wanted to become more of a person that people always feel comfortable with - someone that they think “I enjoy talking with him.” My a-ha moment in all of this feel-good-hug-people vision is that I largely attempt to do this with people that I can make more like myself…...yikes.
In my attempts to feel comfortable with someone, deep down I’m really just trying to make them more palatable, which if I’m honest means making them think like me, talk like me, praise me as I praise myself...(ask my wife how fun that is to live with…)
Community is about all of the beautiful things that come with knowing and being known. There is something eternal to feeling safe and comfortable with a small-ish group of people. Relationships are easier when someone reacts the way you want them to, says the the same things you say, feels what you feel. And to some degree this is the beauty of truly knowing someone! There is a goodness and a sweetness to knowing someone so intimately that you start to mirror one another. We have to hold this in tension with what I’m about to say - because so often we run to extremes: “Community should always hard” “Community should always comfortable.” Both on their own are dangerous.
As the Church (big ‘C’) - I think we get lost in building communities that are homogenous. It’s comfortable, we know what to expect, and largely it takes less effort once the people around you start to feel like you. This isn’t just a ‘white’ problem (though us white people tend to be less comfortable in diverse situations)...it’s not an ‘American’ problem even (though we are pretty individualized)...it’s a human problem. And don’t miss this - it is a problem. We are not called to make the Church more like each other, we’re called as the Church to be more like Jesus.
But I don’t want to just leave it at that - because some of you will feel like you get off the hook. “I don’t go to a church that regularly…” “I like my church but I’m not ‘building’ anything with it…I just go to worship…” “Not everything has to be so intentional all.the.time.” -- but I think this same truth applies to every relationship you have as a follower of Christ - because as followers of Christ, we are being made to look more like him every day. Am I really loving my neighbor if deep down I just want them to be easier to love? Am I really seeing my friends for who they are if deep down I’m planning on how to help them think through something the way I would think through it? Am I really loving the people around me for who God has created them to be if I’m only looking for how to disagree with them?
Don’t misread this - disagreements, differences and arguments are also a part of community. We must desperately fight for truth in a postmodern culture and sometimes that gets really messy. But my heart needs to take a break from thinking the ultimate goal of that truth is for people to be like me...the ultimate goal of that truth is for people to know Jesus and be more like him.
What does it look like to push people to be more like Jesus rather than become more like our own selfish desires?