Community is a term my church has been focusing on this year, and has been the topic of our last several Fusion bible studies. As I was perusing Facebook I came across a post from Jen Hatmaker that spoke to me:
“Paul told us in Romans: ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.’ This would pretty much solve it. If I am devoted to you, if I prefer to honor you than disprove you, then we can preserve loving community in the midst of thousands of differences, even monumental ones. As long as I prefer the sound of my own voice and the affirmation of my choices, then brotherhood and sisterhood is hopeless. Sure, we must love our neighbors as much as ourselves, but AS themselves. When a society only loves the neighbors who are like themselves, the natural outcome leads all the way to racism, hatred, fear, and all out war. Uniformity should never supersede community.”
This post touches my heart on so many levels. Recently I have avoided watching the news because I cannot stand to see communities torn apart and hysteria created from a lack of compassion. It is our human tendency to become absorbed in self and that isn’t something that only happens in far away places set apart from my small-town Alabama. I am routinely guilty of letting differences create separation in my life when I am CLEARLY called by God to love all people. Like most, I hate conflict and confrontation, and I realize my actions stem from my imperfect human nature. But when I routinely seek the Spirit, I desire a community and can find the strength to overcome my introverted tendency and create community with others. Despite my shortcomings, my heart is about healing relationships, even the most broken relationships, because that is where I see God’s hand most dramatically.
When I look forward to bringing my daughter into this world the word “peace” comes to mind. I want to bring her into a family that exudes peace and joy, even when conflict arises. I want her to walk through the front door of our home and enter a peaceful environment full of love and encouragement. As she makes friends I want her to seek peace in those relationships and not let differences create division, even though the world might say otherwise. I also want her to find peace outside of her comfort zone, and in the unknown. This is where God calls us, and this is where His presence lives.
As Jen says, our neighbor is not always like us. They will make different choices and live different lifestyles. They will speak different languages and have different customs. Yet, we are created to be kingdom builders in His name. God knows we cannot do this on our own; we need His love and grace to cover us. The more we lean on Him to love one another, the more relationships will be healed and peace will reign down.