September 5, 2012

Community Includes Broken People

What comes to your mind when you think about a spiritual community?  Many people imagine a Godly group of people who have all been delivered from their emotional and social issues.  They perceive a gathering where the people are understanding and relate to newcomers in a way that makes them feel safe and welcome.  A spiritual community is often expected to be free from any resemblance of human weakness because perfection is expected.
    Although Christian communities should reflect the thoughts and actions of Jesus, there are no perfect communities.  Communities are composed of healthy people as well as broken people.  It is easy to invite people into your life that are pleasant, emotionally stable and exhibit a high social IQ.  If we are being honest, it is often difficult to embrace people that bite.
   As wounded people enter our lives and our communities we are faced with the challenge of learning how to relate to individuals in a way that makes them feel honored but doesn't enable their dysfunctional behavior.  There is a tension in developing relationships with people who lack social skills.  Many broken people feel entitled and expect others to fill their emotional and spiritual needs.  They believe that we can cure vacant places in their heart that only Jesus can heal.  This brokenness often manifest in a 'needy' demeanor as people demand time and attention from those around them.  Although awkward people are challenging Jesus says that we should love them.
   We should be patient with those that are weak in their faith (Romans 15:1) and anemic in their ability to engage with others in a healthy manner.  We often restrict 'bearing one another's burdens' to prayer (Galatians 6:2) but I want to suggest that bearing a weak person's burden has a practical aspect which includes embracing them, including them in your life and learning to love them the way Jesus loves them.  When people question why I place so much emphasis on loving unlovely people my answer is simple and repetitive, "Because God loves us."
    There is a spiritual cycle that is rooted in God's love that is applicable to developing communities that represent the Father's heart.  God loves us--we love God--when we learn to love others the way he loves us--we complete the cycle (1 John 4:11).   God's love can diffuse toxic environments created by toxic, broken people.  We can begin to partner with God in creating healthy communities by asking ourselves how we feel about broken-hearted people. Be honest with yourself and examine your heart, do you feel compassion for difficult people, or judgement?  If you think you love God, but you don't love broken people you aren't being honest with yourself, "We love God because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen" (1 John 4:19).


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