I'm thinking lots about community lately. Mainly because I am the pastor of one. I am interested in how a community that may initially come together around a common set of values, traditions or beliefs can eventually shift their primary allegiance away from those values, traditions and beliefs towards the people of that community. Is that possible? Is that valid? These are serious questions.
They are serious questions because when one of the members of the community begins to legitimately question any of those vtb-s, is that person disqualified from the community? Or is she allowed to question, search, doubt, and even change her mind? Can she disagree and still remain loved by her community and still love that community? Can a person who initially joined the community because of its beliefs gradually come to a place where he questions some of those beliefs and remain in the community if he chooses?
I ask this because this is how God loves. God doesn't love conditional on my beliefs, traditions or values. This ought to be obvious by now. If God loved me while I was dead in my sin, ignorance and unbelief, then this is the only basis of community for God: God's choice with a divine disinterest in the object of the love. In fact, God chooses to remain in community where unbelief is present. Thank God. Sure, someone's going to pull out the syrupy proverb that God loves me while I'm a sinner, but he loves me too much to let me stay that way. But that's categorically not true! The truth is that the fullest extent of my sinfulness unfolds before my eyes and God's on a daily basis the older I get. My values, traditions and beliefs are not yet whole and perfect and they never will be. And this does not jeopardize the community God and I have... because it is based on God's initiative, not mine.
So the community I pastor continues to grow more and more diverse and as a result scandalous in many ways. It can't be pegged into any one category theologically, socially, philosophically, or practically. It's values, beliefs and traditions are all over the place. The basis of our community is gradually turning away from ideological and experiential to personal and relational. I happen to believe that this personal and relational dynamic is somehow the Spirit of Jesus, real and at work. I realize this is all very embryonic right now, but I feel I'm on to something. Stay tuned.