Wednesday, May 17, 2017

High Expectations

We live in a culture which puts a high value on relationship and community. And we live in a culture which sorely lacks these. We can live in a neighborhood where we know no one. We can work in an office where we do little more than exchange greetings. Then we can go home and send our time on TV or the internet and avoid relating to any real person. Or else rushing around from this event to that, without spending any time relating to people. Perhaps we long for community because we lack it. But could it also be the other way around? C. S. Lewis says that when we put second things first, we not only lose the first thing, but the second thing we put in place of it. When we make something into an idol, we lose the real and proper value of that thing, which can only obtained by enjoying it in perspective.
The result of making too much of community is that we can look for the perfect community that does not really exist. And end up refusing to join real communities because they do not measure up. Or we can brood over times in the past when we have been hurt and be afraid to be involved again. These hurts may be real or perceived, but they are magnified by the expectations of a perfect experience. People can even begin to wonder if they are not somehow unworthy of real intimacy. Or we can go to the opposite extreme and try too hard. Nothing can drive people away so quickly as someone who pushes too quickly to a deep level of intimacy. Or we can become extremely needy people clinging to people who are not willing to give that kind of support. Now there are real needs that need to be met, but these can be exaggerated by the belief that community is the perfect solution to all our needs.

God has called us to community (Hebrews 10:24,25; Ephesians 4:1-5; Romans 15:5,6). But in approaching this, there are some important things to remember. This community is a fact; it is not something we bring about or work up, but is based on something higher than ourselves (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:4,5; Galatians 3:27-29), rooted in God’s love for us (Romans 5:6-8; John 3:16-18; Colossians 2:13,14). Also, we are sinners and have not yet arrived, and we should be careful of expecting from others a perfection they do not have (James 3:2; Philippians 3:12-16; Galatians 5:17). But ultimately, we need to get beyond the focus on our needs, even our need for community, to focus on the needs of others (Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 22:37-40; John 13:34,35). But this is only possible as we recognize God’s love, which has placed us in community. And as we do so, we will find our needs are met in turn; and we will grow in real community when we put God first.

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