I thought that I would round off the week with some thoughts on my latest reading. Yes believe it or not with all that has been happening I have still had time to read and reflect on all God has been saying. Maybe appropriately the best book that I have dipped into this week is called Community 101, written by Gilbert Bilezikian, one of the founders of Willow Creek. I found some of his comments very provocative in the midst of a week in which we have been praying for unity within God’s church community and in which we have seen a pulling together of the American community in a sense of unity that has not been present for a long time.
In his book Bilezikian talks about the fact that the supreme achievement of the creation story is the creation of community – an image of the Oneness of God. When God created Adam he exclaimed “It is not good that man should be alone.” and so God created Eve – not as an after thought, not as a submissive servant but as an equal partner , a companion comparable in every way to Adam. The consequence of the Fall was the fragmentation of community and the isolation of human beings into small self centred little worlds in which they cared for themselves rather than for each other. It seems to me that the culmination of this isolation is the creation of Western individualism which has so little respect for others, something that we have seen played out in such graphic ways in the corruption of our economic systems.
Bilezikian points out that we do not encounter this Oneness of community spelled out in Genesis again until we enter the New Testament and encounter the new world that Jesus ushered in. Jesus final prayer to his disciples “was his yearning for the oneness of his followers down through the ages (John 17:11, 20 – 23). Then his vision arched over his time of suffering and death to anticipate the divine glory that he would recover in his oneness with the Father, the same glory he had before he came into the world (p37). And though Bilezikian does not talk about this I would further add that this unity thatJesus prays is actually glimpsed in the coming together of people from so many different culutres at Pentecost. And the uniqueness of that gathering is not that they all speak the same language but that they understand each other in their own languages.
Unfortunately from my point of view at least, Bilezikian spends the rest of the book talking about community through small groups and important though they may be I hate to restrict God’s creation of community to church small groups. Community comes in so many shapes and sizes, it sprawls across homogeneous groups and richly diverse gatherings, it is formed in churches, coffee shops, community gardens and even sometimes in the heart of shopping malls. It can be residential or scattered. It is found in churches and mosques and in people who share a common rule of life. Whatever its form community is what holds us together as a society – not because we all look the same or think the same but because we know that “it is not good for man to dwell alone” and we deliberately seek to understand and accept those who are different from us. And in order for us to form community we must have a sense of common purpose that draws us together in the bonds of love seeking for mutual understanding and concern.
The church has such an important part to play in our world today if we are to see the hope and expectation of this past week come to fruitition. Unless we as God’s people can become one and can show others that we are one by our love and mutual respect how can we expect our world to move towards the unity that God craves for?