Judge you? Of course not! You and I are brothers, sisters – we are community.
Community for many is a one-dimensional affair. This can be especially true of community that goes by the name ‘Christian’. For many in the church, community must be, can only be, affirmation and sweetness, laughter and fun. Absent are openness and honesty, critique and correction. This one-dimensional, warm and friendly type of community is easily favored over community in which actions are called into question or attitudes are challenged, because … well, it is easier, nicer, more affirming. And yet, nice and affirming, warm and cozy, one-dimensional community is less than what community could and should be, is intended to be.
If love is the crux of relationship, then community must be more than mere acceptance and affirmation. Love includes seeking the best for the other, and seeking the best must include confronting attitudes and habits that stand in the way of growth and change. True love offers affirmation and gives grace, but it also confronts, corrects and critiques.
Affirming-critiquing community is rare. And yet, I believe it is possible and necessary. While many forces work against it, this rare breed of community can occur when …
- Change is sought. It is because most of us do not desire change that we keep community on the surface level. We had rather maintain assumptions about ourselves and not have our actions and attitudes challenged, and thus, we want community to affirm who we are or what we project ourselves to be.
- Community is mutual. Though critiquing, correcting and confronting love is offered, it is not always received. Community takes two people, not just one. Both sides must be willing to walk together in trust and love, step by step. Without mutual trust and sharing, community cannot happen.
- Criticism is constructive. We tend to think of judgment of one’s attitude and behavior as condemnation of the person. While many may blast away at us in an attempt to destroy our person and reputation, the opposition is the case in true community. The intent of criticism and correction within community is to lend a hand to a person’s growth and development, not to destroy them.
- Church is more than a spectator gathering. The usual expectation in the modern church is that we show up, sit down, and listen to. Church is a spectator rather than a community event. What little bit of community that does occur is usually incidental. Of all places on earth, church should be the best and safest place to hear the truth about ourselves and get a true picture of who we are.
All of us need a place where people love us enough to tell us the truth and where we feel free to invite others to communicate opinions concerning our attitudes and behavior. Christian community should be the place where we are affirmed and judged; the place where we are loved and transformed.
Please, judge me.