In every group (family, church, business or community) there will be people who can only look out for their own perceived best interests. This is not necessarily good news for the community.
Some might and have argued that it drains resources. It might cause conflict and resentment, as the worker bees look around and notice that not everyone pulls their weight or bothers to put their own coffee mug the sink or throws away their trash. This is annoying.
I remember many moons ago when I thought my own family was not showing me the love when they did one annoying habit or another that really bugged me. I took it personally; I experienced it as a show of disrespect. Today, I feel differently. But before I start thinking about how I’VE MATURED, let me say this: my children have grown up and do amazingly grown up things today – like clean my kitchen without being asked, take out the trash when they are over and notice it’s full and much, much more. It begs the question: who has really changed?
What our entire family worked on was maturity. I learned not to personalize their choices; they learned how to be more considerate of my preferences. We kept talking and talking and worked through stuff. This is necessary work for communities too.
It is extremely important for faith communities to understand that this is part of the work, not some strange occurrence. Otherwise, various people will end up being excluded or scapegoated in order to try to keep harmony. Faith communities by and large should more closely resemble a barnyard (think of Jesus being born in a stable) than a some pristine beautiful temple of marble and burnished bronze. Families and churches interested in being authentic and trusting of God’s work that involves “removing our defects of character” can find, I hope, some measure of peace knowing that all this conflict and chaos is normal.
The fact that a community continually wrestles with another way of living that involves sacrifice and showing up for others by demonstrating a willingness to love the selfish son of a gun who takes and takes and takes is kind of sweet. It is one way we can stand up for living in the light of God’s love and inviting others to join in on living life with a different perspective.
Not easy. Hard. But I dare to believe that this effort brings God joy. Tomorrow…more on this topic.