One of the things that has long bugged me about my own experiences of community and I guess my own shortcomings is about who is in included in community. I mean really. I know the theory of church is of course that ALL are welcome, but are they really welcome?
We’ve been blogging around community over the past week but I’ve always found that we can be a bit warm and fuzzy about who’s included, usually friends, people we get on with, people who make us laugh, people just like us. But what if they’re not like us, what happens then?
The lonely, I’ve found, are often lonely for a reason. Sure, there are those who are lonely because of bereavement or circumstances, in another time or place they wouldn’t be lonely. It isn’t too difficult to make room for and care for such people.
But there are other people who are lonely for entirely different reasons. They’re lonely because they alienate people, the difficult people, the socially inept, the awkward, the uncomfortable people, the people who are emotional black holes and who suck all the life out of you. The person who mistimes every comment, talks too much is confrontational or manipulative, the broken hurting and lonely people of this world. They may well be victims and misfits but Christ loves them all the same. Bringing them into genuine community is a real challenge, more often than not the one thing they need the most is the one thing they’re least equipped to handle.
On my own, I think of these people and the mere thought of loving them exhausts me and wears me down, the cost too great, the price too high. Ironically it’s only the resources of a genuine community that has the strength to pull each other as well as the difficult blighters through. Genuine love and acceptance I truly believe is life transforming, for all concerned.
The problem is that we live private lives, fragmented lives and isolated lives and therefore there is precious little room for the lonely.
So who is in your community?