Time for Lent: Community


(system) #1

Welcome back to the Lenten series on giving our time to work for peace and justice.[1] Today’s focus is community. This may not be the first topic that comes to mind when contemplating social action, but I believe it is important for positioning our future discussions. Even the Lord’s Prayer begins with a sense of community—“Our Father…”[2] “The prayer Jesus taught us is a prayer of community and reconciliation, belonging to a new kind of people who have left the land of ‘me.’”[3]

When we contemplate social justice, we are not simply analyzing issues; we are talking about people’s lives.[4] As we are in personal relationships with those affected by the various social concerns that will be highlighted in this series, we are blessed with friendship and an improved perspective for the requisite social analysis. As Shane Claiborne says, “It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a missions project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle.”[5]

Recently, a classmate showed me what this can look like. He suddenly left a lecture saying he had an emergency at home. When I later asked what had happened, he responded, “The homeless man who lives with our family had a seizure and fell and hit his head.” I was surprised that this gentleman who is on the board of a national humanitarian agency cares for an individual as earnestly as he cares for society more broadly. This may sound extreme to many of us, but I am thankful that families open their homes in ministries of hospitality.[6]

Community is an expansive topic. In addition to opening our homes for extended periods as just described, community also includes shorter-term hospitality,[7] intentional communities,[8] and the on-going relationships in our network of social bonds.[9] Christine Pohl highlights another expression of community—sharing meals. “Especially in the context of shared meals, the presence of God’s kingdom is prefigured, revealed, and reflected.”[10] The experience of the early church demonstrates the importance of this practice:

[S]hared meals were a significant setting for struggling with cultural boundaries in the early church, especially in working through the incorporation of Gentiles into the early communities. At meals together, tensions surfaced between rich and poor believers; meals provided the context for instructions on equal recognition and respect. Hospitality practices in the Christian community were to portray a clear message—that of equality, transformed relations, and a common life.[11]

You guessed it; eating together is today’s action step. Jesus brought together significantly diverse individuals to form the core of his movement. Who can you eat with today to continue the revolution of the Kingdom of God—a coworker with differing political views, a neighbor whose skin tone doesn’t resemble your own, a church member who is either more conservative or liberal than you, or someone who doesn’t currently have money to repay you? Bon appétit![12]

***** Jeff Boyd is the Assistant Director of Church of Refuge at the Center for Youth Evangelism and is pursuing an MA in Peace Studies at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. He has undergraduate degrees from Union College in Religion and Psychology and an MBA from Andrews University.

[1] To read the first article, in this Lenten series, on action and prayer, click here.

[2] Matthew 6:9-13.

[3] Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals (IVP Books, 2008), 18.

[4] Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 292-293.

[5] Ibid., 128. On pages 134-135 Claiborne says, “Community is what we were created for. We are made in the image of a God who is community, a plurality of oneness…. The biblical story is the story of community, from beginning to end…. But that doesn’t mean community is easy.”

[6] For additional reflections and stories in this vein, see The Irresistible Revolution (pp. 115-190), Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers (p. 22), School(s) for Conversion (Rutba House, 2005, pp. 39-54), Dissident Discipleship (David Augsburger, 2006, pp. 57-84), Everybody Wants to Change the World (Tony Campolo and Gordon Aeschliman, 2006, pp. 40-42), http://newneighbor.org, http://www.qideas.org/audio/new-neighbor.aspx, and http://ccda.org.

[7] See Matthew 25:35 and Hebrews 13:2.

[8] See http://www.newmonasticism.org, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/september/16.38.html?start=1, and http://www.communityofcommunities.info.

[9] Two random bits: One enemy of community is mobility. If you are like my wife and I, this Jesus Manifesto article on flight risks may speak to you—Rebellion as Staying Put. For E. G. White quotes on relationships, see the Church of Refuge website.

[10] Christine D. Pohl, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition (Eerdmans, 1999), 30.

[11] Ibid., 31-32.

[12] Maybe 1844 could print t-shirts with the slogan, “Changing the world one bite at a time” or “Share a haystack—Change the world.” I promise never to write copy for a t-shirt company!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/2180