Making community—true community—is much like making family. We only ever get to choose one person in our family—our spouse. Everyone else before and after us, including parents and kids, are chosen for us by God’s grace. If we want true community to develop, we shouldn’t get to pick and choose based on our personal preference. Our choice comes in the form of choosing to love the gifts—the people—who are shared with us. Sometimes we make community out of our family, sometimes we choose not to, and sometimes we are prevented from ever being given that opportunity in the first place.
That last option sounds hopeless, right? And we are. Except for the fact of Jesus. He entered history in a particular place, and he fully embraced the way of love—so much so that the people in that particular region and time were deeply impacted by his way of life. He operated radically different from most expectations. He saw and knew people. He loved all types. He chose to make community.
Jesus is still impacting the way we think and live. Regardless of our situation, God always makes the first move. He loves us too much to stand back. This is simply God’s identity. He is love. And love exudes action. He offers this costly love to us in himself. How is he impacting the way you think about your neighbors, and the way you live into your neighborhood? How is true community is being formed in your neighborhood? Is someone there following God’s first move to love all types of people? Are these ordinary radicals continuing in that way?
Jean Vanier wrote that “in practice, there is a tendency for assistants [this could represent any of us] to make their own community and be satisfied with that. Truly to make community with the poorest and identify with them is harder and demands a certain death to self.” If you’ve tried to actively and consistently love that aunt of yours with that disease, or with your wayward prodigal son you’ve spent decades praying for, then you know how difficult it is to make community. Here is one of the realities of our humanity: we like ourselves a lot, and we spend most of our time with people who look and act a lot like we do. But here is one of the mysteries of our faith: in dying we find a new way to live. To make community with people around us—people in our own neighborhoods—it requires a certain death to self. And that is precisely the invitation of Jesus.