Friday, July 27, 2007
In his excellent book, The Jesus Way, Eugene Peterson writes; "Community is intricate and complex. Living in community as a people of God is inherently messy. A congregation consists of many people of various moods, ideas, needs, experiences, gifts and injuries, desires and disappointments, blessings and losses, intelligence and stupidity, living in proximity and in respect for one another, and believingly in worship of God. It is not easy and it is not simple. Not every situation can be anticipated. Novel combinations of circumstances take us by surprise. No community worth its salt has ever existed long without attending painstakingly to particular conditions." In my opinion the best way that we "painstakingly attend" to the difficult conditions of relationships in community is to preserve a moment-by-moment attitude of forgiveness. Recently, I heard Marva Dawn mention in a talk that she doesn't go to church with folk that she likes. Rather she attends church with folk she has forgiven and who have forgiven her. Before Paul begins the glorious hymn to Christ in Colossians 1, he has this to say; "in whom (the Beloved Son of the Father) we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (1.14, NASB). Paul never seems to mention the forgiveness we have received from God without later appealing to it as the basis by which we are to forgive members of the community. This why he later writes, "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you" (3.13, NASB; cf. Eph 1.7; 4.32). Experience teaches me the longer I spend working with God's people, the more I will be exposed to the "inherent messiness" of living in community. Let each of us painstakingly attend to the task of distinctively Christian forgiveness.