Community is not an Abstract Ideal {Quotable}

Community means caring: caring for people. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “He who loves community destroys community; he who loves the brethren builds community.” A community is not an abstract ideal. We are not striving for perfect community. Community is not an ideal; it is people. It is you and I. In community we are called to love people just as they are with their wounds and their gifts, not as we would would want them to be. Community means giving them space, helping them to grow. It means receiving from them so that we too can grow. It is giving each other freedom; it is giving each other trust; it is confirming but also challenging each other. We give dignity to each other by the way we listen to each other, in a spirit of trust and of dying to oneself so that the other may live, grow and give.” ~Jean Vanier {From Brokenness to Community}

Do you love the idea of community or do you love the people? It’s a fundamental question we must ask. As disciples of Jesus we are called to love one another. That means we must push through the discomfort of merely liking the idea of loving and being loved into the place where we are really loving people and being loved.

When I think about this, I recall a recent coffee date. A fine conversation took place between myself and another, but when I got in my car to leave I had the distinct thought that my coffee companion liked the idea of knowing me rather than actually knowing and being known. Our time over coffee was an exchange of ideas and information, but I did not sense there was love. It was too perfectly scripted for love. The dream of who I am {and who she is} was never awakened to reality of who we really are. Awakened dreams are vulnerable places and it takes courage to open our eyes, but it is in this wide-awake place that love grows.

How many relationships lie dormant or dead because we love our dreams of others more than we really love them?

I’m challenged by this. It’s easy to slip into the comfort of “having friends,”and we let friends become objects that we move around on shelves for aesthetic purposes. It’s not the kind of friendship Jesus offers to us. He gives us the personal, messy, “I really know you and still really love” friendship.” As I’ve received, I am challenged to give.

I wonder how our communities would change if we were to grace each other with this kind of dignity. You know where we move toward others in our homes, churches, and neighborhoods not to get something from someone but just to know and treasure…yes, and love them…as a gift…just as they are. I wonder.

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