We often get so caught up in a fantasy world, that we fail to see things as they really are. Many of us have done this when we think about Biblical Community. When we think about community in the church we often idealize it and romanticize the concept. We long for community and we long to be a part of a people who always get along, always listens to us, and always encourages us. Anyone who has spent even the slightest amount of time in a local church knows that this fantasy world we’ve imagined is just that, fantasy.
Even Pastors fantasize about a utopia church community. We read about the early church in Acts 2 and we think, “Why doesn’t my church look like this community!” Yet we often fail to see the incredible conflict in the early church. Their community was far from perfect. From sexual scandal, false teachers, intense church conferences, authority issues, and fundraising, the early church by no means resembled the fantasy world we think it is.
Yet strangely, it is the imperfection of our community which makes biblical community so sweet. The church is made up of redeemed sinners and it is expected that we will sin against each other. Many have been hurt by the church, wounded by other Christians. The church is a defunct group of people, yet God has miraculously brought this ragamuffin group together, despite all their differences through the blood of Jesus Christ.
In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book Life Together, he addresses this fantasy world we live in when we think about community. He writes,
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live in a dream world… A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
So often we are more in love with the fantasy of our personal utopia vision of community that we don’t actually love the community God has placed us in. Community is messy, yet God has called us to love these other redeemed sinners around us despite the mess they may make. There is no such thing as a “perfect church” and that is a good thing. Because as soon as you or I joined it, it would cease to be perfect. God in his wonderful plan brings sinners together and unites them through Christ.
Your illusion of christian community may have been recently shattered. You may have been greatly hurt by people within your church. You may be so frustrated with the hypocrisy in churches that you just want to abandon Christian community all together. But take heart, God has not redeemed you and saved you in Christ so you can live in a fantasy world. He has redeemed you to love and serve other sinners, real people, just like yourself. Bonhoeffer would go on to say, “We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what He does give us daily”. God has given you your local church, a messed up sinful group of people to be your community. It is a gracious thing to be a part of the body of Christ. Cherish your community and love them for who they are now, not for who they may one day be. Love them well without expectations and when we stop seeking an ideal of community of our own creation, we just might very well find true Christian community.