Friday, June 25, 2010

Restoring Community 2: The context

Recently I posted about the whole idea of community and how if we can restore a real sense of authentic community within our church context, and take that vision into the communities in which we live and work, we can rebuild relationships within our communities, and rebuild the lost sense of community in our culture.

What I want to briefly address today is how this concept of community will look different depending on the culture and location in which we were born and live. For example, on a bigger scale how we do community, the processes and practicalities of community, will look different in a Western capitalist culture than it will in Eastern or African culture - merely because those cultures are very different than ours, the way the people see the world is different and their circumstances are different.

The importance of this principle of community exists, but the way it looks will inevitably be different - and not just in different parts of the world, but even different depending on the town and borough you live in. Different communities have different needs, different circumstances, different types of people, so their roles will be different.

It sounds obvious but its not. So often we want a 'one size fits all' method of solving different problems, but in practical living out of faith and building community there isn't going to be a 'one size fits all' idea.

The only 'one size fits all idea' is Jesus on the cross - the love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and sacrifice of Jesus for all of us, the invitation for us all to join in the building of His kingdom. And even then how we understand and hear that will depnend on our background, upbringing and culture, and which theological ideas we subscribe to and what our church background is - which in turn impacts how we live it practically.

Some people think you can just 'do what the Bible says', as if there is only one correct way to hear the scriptures. But how you hear it will depend on who you are, your cultural and religious background. There will always be context, perspective and room for interpretation. There is no such thing as a 'neutral' view of scripture, indeed there is arguably no such thing as a 'neutral' perspective at all. All our opinions, beliefs and views are shaped by our experience, knowledge, background and culture. If you believe something, it came from somewhere, its been shaped by something.

The bottom line from a Christian worldview is, ultimately, Jesus. A man  - the Son of God - who lived a sinless life, faced all the temptations and sufferings we do and unjustly suffered and died, and according to the scriptures (and at least 500 witnesses) rose again for the restoration of all things - including the forgiveness of sin. Jesus is the centre of it all. That, ultimately is where it begins and ends.

Outside of that however there is inevitably going to be context, interpretation, re-interpretation and perspective. How we have been born and shaped will impact how we interpret and live out the way of Jesus, and ultimately that will shape our local churches and communities, and that's a positive thing. God made us all differently and all of us, both as individuals and communties of any kind, grow up in different environments with different needs and perspectives.

So, inevitably the practicalities of how we do community, how we do church, will be different wherever we are and whoever we are.

People are always going to disagree on the finer points of thelogy, ecclesiology (study of church), as much as they will on politics. But there are reasons for it, and we need to embrace our differences and accept them, and focus on loving and honouring God with all we have and loving one another as we love ourselves, and as we should be loved - Jesus said Himself the rest of it all comes from those two things, and if we seek to do those things, in the context of the cross and resurrection, we can be well on our way to building both the kind of church Jesus wanted and restoring community wherever we are.

Posted via email from James Prescott