Our baptismal covenant teaches us that Christians need community. Still, finding healthy, supportive Christian community is hard work. In this week's Alban Institute e-newsletter, Timothy C. Geoffrion reflects on the obstacles to Christian community and the joys of living within it.
Pursuing God within community, then, can offer many benefits. For greater safety and security, pursuing God within a community of sincere, knowledgeable pilgrims can be reassuring and helpful. For greater knowledge and wisdom, interacting with both learned people and those from other traditions and faiths in the broader world can be quite fruitful. For encouragement and support for the journey, finding the right kind of community offers companionship, perspective, and essential help along the way. On the other hand, those who try to go it alone or who refuse to listen to others set themselves up for futile wandering at best and disaster at worst. Spiritual arrogance, rooted in self-centeredness and an overly self-confident reliance on one’s own thinking and experience, can easily lead to making significant personal mistakes and to hurting others.
Sometimes finding a church that feels like a good fit is really hard. Sometimes others don’t want to resolve their conflicts with us or cannot do so peacefully. Trying to develop authentic, mutually beneficial relationships is often hard work and doing so with some people seems impossible. Most of us have memories of being hurt by someone in Christian community, and some of us still carry the scars from our wounds. Finding, cultivating, and maintaining spiritually vital relationships within community sometimes may seem like too much work with too little promise. Nevertheless, in my experience, without Christian community we simply cannot experience the fullness of life God intends for us, and we will limit our spiritual growth and miss out on important aspects of Spirit-led living.
Adapted from One Step at a Time: A Pilgrim's Guide to Spirit-Led Living by Timothy C. Geoffrion, copyright © 2008 by the Alban Institute. All rights reserved.