Lately my thoughts are that the greatest challenge to the church reaching its potential and being the visible evidence of the kingdom of God on earth is our often unconscious but tenacious commitment to individualism – to our personal autonomy.
A statement I have been repeating to our crew at QBC, almost in the form of a mantra is ‘we always takes precedence over me in the kingdom of God’.
In the life of faith our communal identity is always of greater priority than who we are individually. It’s one of those truths we ‘know’ from scripture but that sits completed at odds with our western way of life, which of course means we don’t know it at all. We are just aware of the theory and even the theory sounds odd.
If ‘we matters more me’ then we actually choose to surrender our own wants to the needs of the community. We choose to forgo what may ‘suit me’ to ensure the community is better placed… And seriously – who does that?
Even just to say it sounds weird. No one does that… And maybe that’s why we lack distinctiveness. Maybe that’s why we so often look like s religious version of middle class suburban life… If ‘we matters more than me’ then it rips apart our whole world view and takes away our autonomy.
I don’t like anyone messing with my autonomy.
What would it look like though if we gave it a shot?
We would seek the good of the community before we seek our own good. We would put our own desires in the context of what is happening beyond us and we would be willing to let go of our preferences and desires to enhance the life of those around us. Its a serious commitment to unselfish living.
We would make sacrifices of time and money for others. Rather than seeing church as a religious meeting to attend on a certain preferred frequency we see it as a community we need to engage with, both because we are called to do so, but also because it’s in this space that our life is more complete.
The biggest obstacles we face to living more communally and less individualistically are most likely busy lives. Somehow in the west we have managed to live in a state of perpetual manic busyness which means we don’t have the time to slow down and be with others in meaningful ways. Community is impossible when we are too busy to be with others. As a result the chances of our world seeing a depiction of the kingdom as an alternate reality is significantly limited.
It’s almost an unsolvable puzzle unless we are willing to forgo some of those hours at work, some of the $$ that come from those hours and reinvest the time in building a community that speaks of the distinctiveness of the kingdom of God. And having been here before I know that one of the accompanying challenges is that someone may make the choice to realign their life, but if no one else does then they will find themselves with time to spend and no one to spend it with…
I’m not holding myself up as any model of living in community. I find this stuff really hard and I’m naturally very individualistic. But if we are to have a hope of giving our world an inspiring depiction of life in an alternate reality then we can’t let this beat us.