By Pastor Vinnie Cappetta
At the end of a particularly difficult church service where one of my friends confessed egregious sin, a visitor to the church reacted by saying, “I think I just saw the underbelly of the church.” I responded, “You did see the underbelly of our church today, but chances are the next church you visit won’t show you theirs.”
The fact is that Christian community cannot live up to all of our individual expectations. At some point, we are all bound to be disappointed…and that can be a good thing. On this theme, I have returned again and again to Bonhoeffer’s insights…
“On innumerable occasions a whole Christian community has been shattered because it has lived on the basis of a wishful image. Certainly serious Christians who are put in a community for the first time will often bring with them a very definite image of what Christian communal life should be, and they will be anxious to realize it. But God‘s grace quickly frustrates all such dreams. A great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves, is bound to overwhelm us as surely as God desires to lead us to an understanding of genuine Christian community. By sheer grace God will not permit us to live in a dream world even for a few weeks and to abandon ourselves to those blissful experiences and exalted moods that sweep over us like a wave of rapture. For God is not a God of emotionalism, but the God of truth. Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, pg. 35
Some questions to consider…
-What image of Christian community have you had in your heart and mind that has been frustrated because it hasn’t happened yet or hasn’t happened the way you thought it should?
-Have you noticed your own anxiety rising when your image of Christian community isn’t materializing?
-Have you ever considered that God might be the One frustrating your ideal image of Christian community or ideal picture of ministry?
The truth is that God may frustrate your wish dream of Christian community because that wish dream could become an idol for you. I know I have had many such wish dreams and God’s grace has allowed them to disappoint me, but the result has been greater dependence on Jesus and greater love for Jesus. So, let us bring all of our wish dreams to Jesus Who alone can fulfill the hunger and thirsty in our hearts for Christian community.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.