It is hard to describe the conversation, even in the minutes that followed its end. The experience was a reminder of the power within individuals that comes alive when it touches the same power in others. The combination occurs through dialogue, the mutual knowledge of shared values and priorities, and experiential trust. As I reflect I realize that it is not always easy to anticipate when the power will emerge.
The label community is often applied to groups that share something in common. The shared item of note – where one lives, the religion one embraces, a particular demographic, or even an obvious goal – is not the key to releasing the power within us. A recent football game, where teammates sat lifeless on the sidelines, was a great reminder. In other circumstances, what qualifies an individual’s membership does not always mean that they are committed to the community’s ideals and purpose. These individuals are, frankly speaking, “are the ones who split churches, thinking only of themselves. There’s nothing to them, no sign of the Spirit!” (Jude 1.19) They are many things, including superficial members of the community. They do not release the power that comes with community.
It is not easy to know how to react. I have an automatic response within me that tries to restore and integrate. It is as if I think I know what is best for them. I know I do not but I behave as if I do. A odd wisdom saying has been with me for many years. Paraphrasing; “a community is what a community is”. The wise woman who shared this with me went on to tell the story that a community reflected the sum of the individuals within in. While one can influence, the individuals determine what the sum will be.
It is natural to want to belong. It is a thirst within us that we cannot control. We can be intentional and make a difference. We have the freedom within to choose. In doing so, we unlock our ability to make a positive difference in our communities.