We Could Believe We Loved Everyone

Many months ago in a conversation about church with my friend and colleague David (check out his blog here) I revisited a quote from Jean Vanier's book Community and Growth.

Vanier, if you did not know, is the founder of the L'Arche community. Many will recall that Henri Nouwen famously left academia to serve in the L'Arche community.

I was sharing with David what I found important and valuable about church. Though Vanier is speaking about communities living under the same roof, I believe his insights apply to all faith-based communities. This is why church is so important to me:
Community is the place where our limitations, our fears and our egotism are revealed to us. We discover our poverty and our weaknesses, our inability to get on with some people, our mental and emotional blocks, our affective and sexual disturbances, our seemingly insatiable desires, our frustrations and jealousies, our hatred and our wish to destroy. While we are alone, we could believe we loved everyone. Now that we are with others, living with them all the time, we realise how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny to others, how closed in on ourselves we are.
As I shared with David, church is simply the place where I find myself revealed as being vain, judgmental, envious, jealous, competitive, irritable, selfish, self-absorbed, neurotic and stubborn. Church helps me know this about myself.

More, it's easy to love people in the abstract. And social media can aid in this illusion. It's easy--oh, so easy--to write a loving, grace-filled and big-hearted blog post.
Come close. Take my hand. Lean in and let me whisper to you. You are loved. 

Know this, dear one, you are loved.
And the easiness isn't just with poetic and lyrical blogging. It's just as easy to write a blog about loving others in academic jargon.
Christian community is a participation in the Triune life of God, where the perichoresis of the Father, Son and Spirit reflects the koinonia of the Kingdom of God. 
How easy was that to write? I could blather on like that for days.
Loving others through social media is one thing, but when it comes time to love actual flesh and blood people many of us remove ourselves from the daily grind of simply getting along with others.

I used to think this was a failure of effort, of not wanting to put in the time and effort to be in concrete relationships with others. Church is a chore. It's hard relational work.

But as I mentioned above, I think a lot of our disengagement is being driven by ego. The disciplines of community expose our selfishness, vanity, impatience, entitlement and our brokenness.

And rather than enduring this exposure it easier to withdraw into the illusion that we are loving people through social media.

While we are alone--in front of screens typing and Tweeting--we believe we love everyone.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply