We are community makers.
I see this in my daughter all the time. The other day she had a group of friends, a flashlight, a cape, and their imagination. They’d only been playing for about five minutes and already formed a club—the Ghost Hunters. About ten minutes into this little charade community rules developed. They were having the time of their lives and plotting out their ideas for world domination….and then the whole thing blew up.
We are community destroyers.
I assume that somebody called someone else a doody head or tried to grab some power that wasn’t theirs and the whole thing came unglued. Factions started and Ghost Hunters took a few steps backwards. It wasn’t fun anymore. The community was destroyed. Apparently hunting ghosts in the scary crevices of a creepy old church wasn’t a big enough vision to bind them together.
Are adults really any better?
I’m preaching on Proverbs 1:8-19 this Sunday and I cannot help but think this is a tremendously accurate picture of our political engagement. If my Facebook wall is any indication “let us lie in wait for blood” is the modus operandi of political engagement. Wait for the other party to mess up, ambush them, and then take their stuff. Swallow them up like the grave swallows up people. That’s the strategy.
And we form community around this. It’s appealing to us. We like to belong. Every time we share one of those political posts on Facebook we are trying to expand our community and lob grenades at the other one. This is why it feels good whenever we get likes and hearts and shares and retweets on social media. We are forming community.
But it’s a mirage. Ray Ortlund is correct:
“A cause, even a negative cause, provides a group to belong to. It is one way we nurse our grudges, and it feels good. But whenever we gather around grievance rather than Jesus, that is counterfeit community, black-market relationships, and that negativity is on a collision course with reality. It cannot succeed long-term.” –(Ray Ortlund, Proverbs Commentary).
I understand why those who do not have a relationship with Jesus could so easily slip into counterfeit community. It’s all they really have. But what baffles me—and this is true of my own heart—is how we believers who have tasted of the true community of Jesus could so easily be duped into pursuing false community. We gather around grievance rather than Jesus and then blame God for the rancid fruit this produces. We blame him for the church who chose the stew instead of the birthright.
A community who bears the name of Jesus but is gathered around grievance instead of Christ is still a counterfeit community. It won’t hold.
The same thing happens with these communities that happens when you start a friendship based on juicy gossip. A person who gossips to you will someday gossip about you. It’s the same thing with those who lie in wait for another’s blood while promising a shared purse. It’s good now but eventually you are going to be on the other end of that equation. You’ll end up in a ditch. This is why churches which started because of a church split seldom grow and end up splitting over and over again.
This is also why our nation will not ever truly be united while we are stuck in this cycle of greed. A lust for power—even if its to use that power for good ends—will never end well. If you grab power by ungodly means its going to come back on you. You’ve created a culture that is going to swallow you alive.
Our only hope is to step off the cycle and devote ourselves to a community which is increasingly dedicated to Jesus. Only Christ at center is big enough and powerful enough to bind together diverse people. Step away from Christ and you’ve stepped away from the community you so deeply desire.