As much as I like to think otherwise, I’m bad at community.
But I’m not alone. In fact, I’ve begun to realize that everyone is bad at community. Some people may be worse at certain aspects of it than others, but the story of the Fall in Genesis shows us that we’re doomed from the start to fail at community, over and over. God see that we’ll kill ourselves, so everyone is scattered and given a different language. We’re simply unable to live with one another without hurting each other or creating deeper problems: war and poverty to name just two. God offers, in Deuteronomy, an option for periodically repenting from our sins in community called the Jubilee. This doesn’t seem to stick. The way I see it, when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, the reversal of the sin at the Tower of Babel extends to community as well. Acts 2 and 4 describe the way the new community of Jesus operates: meeting every day and caring for one anothers needs. But even this has flaws, as some people get overlooked in the daily distribution.
In more practical, contemporary terms, we all do (and don’t do) things that often unintentionally hurt each other. I can go out of my way to try and spend time with as many people as I can, but inevitably I’ll leave someone out. It happens when we forget to make that extra phone call to someone, and they feel left out. It happens because we’re not intentional about everything we do. We also self-select our friends; the people most like us, and generally the most likeable are the ones we value. Our modes of operating lend themselves to hurting others because as much as we profess to be Christian, we rarely follow the social implications of Jesus’ teachings to their full, logical ends. Jesus’ model for throwing parties is to go invite the people most of us don’t like. I don’t even think that means just the “poor” but rather that person that we think is just odd or creepy.
Jesus’ way of doing life works. It teaches how to live in any sort of community. But we can’t bring ourselves to go all the way with it, so we screw up. The communities that thrive the longest and are worthy of emulation are those that take the teachings the farthest. The more time I spend in a particular type of community, the more I see how much farther I have to go. I only hope I’m making incremental progress every morning. Praying the daily office has been an unbelieveable help in moving towards a prayerful way of doing community.