By Rev. David del Valle
Richard Adams, in his book Watership Down tells the story of a warren of rabbits that used to tell one another rabbit stories. They would tell of the great mystical prince of rabbits, and how he would appear and disappear, escaping perils and dangers. As a result of sharing theses stories with one another in community, these rabbits were fast, quick and cunning, which you have to be in order to survive in a rabbit world. One day this warren of rabbits decided to go in migration in search of other rabbit communities and they came upon a community of rabbits that did not know rabbit stories. As a consequence this community of rabbits had grown fat and slow. And we all know that rabbits that are fat and slow find themselves in a skillet or the mouth of a predator. Essentially this is a story of community – that place where stories are exchanged, where our souls come to be exfoliated.
The Church is a community of faith, the called out to worship God and minister to the world community. This community of faith provides the context for our individual stories, as well as the story of the community to be brought together and transformed by the story of Jesus Christ – a story par excellence. As such the Church, the community of faith, provides a setting for those without voice to be heard. This is realized by the fact that this is a fellowship, a community of redemptive love.
Christianity is basically concerned with the matter of relationships – God’s relationship to us, our relationship to God, and our relationship to one another. Our relationships deepen as we get to know and appreciate one another’s story (do a word study on “One another” in the Bible and see what you come up with). This I believe is the goal of genuine community.
We must also be aware that there exist false or pseudo-communities. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book Life Together poses an important caveat to us, “Those who love their dream of Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community, even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial.” We must keep in mind that in Nazi Germany there existed, side by side two churches, the confessing Church and the professing Church; one a genuine community of faith, the other in league with the state apparatus. There have always existed false or pseudo-communities, from the community of Nimrod in Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), to the community of the Roman pagan state (Romans 1: 18-32) and even to the Aryan community of Hitler’s Germany.
It is in the context of genuine community where we are called to be transparent, authentic human beings who are called to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1). We are called to be imitators of the perfect community exhibited in the Godhead – the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). It is the goal of true fellowship (koinonea), that we associate and partake with one another. We share in, distribute and impart to one another. Now, what is it that we share, distribute and impart to one another? We share and impart our lives which are to be opened to one another, our hopes and aspirations, our brokenness and failures, all these and more we bring to the community of faith. Doing this crates an atmosphere where genuine community can take place. Those who are called to lead and those whom we are leading all have a stake in making genuine authentic community a reality for all. The challenge is great, and may seem impossible, “but with God all things are possible.”