When I was younger, I remember hearing and talking as though the most important thing you could say about a Christian is what that person does when no one else, or at least no other Christians, were around. Once you leave that protective sphere, who are you really?
I have almost decided that the opposite is closer to the truth. To play a role in the Christian drama is to be an individual who is part of a body. I am most myself when I am functioning within the body of Christ, and those possible deficiencies that surface when I’m not in close connection with the community show me how much I need the community to help me manifest who I truly am in Christ.
This is a smaller piece of a larger puzzle. Who we are, what we believe, and what we do are all to varying degrees part of the communities in which we participate. Sometimes this will be by way of agreement, sometimes by way of disagreement–often the communities we’re in will shape our thinking in ways we’re not even aware of by nature of the very questions it’s asking or not asking, or the way it’s framing the options.
All of this gets me to the real point, which is that the state of our faith as followers of Jesus is rarely separable from the Christian community of which we are a part.
When I was going through some of the worst of my struggles to find a Christian community where I could thrive, my belief in the God of the Bible was at its weakest. Other stories I hear of people slipping away from the faith often have lengthy struggles of finding a community that can bear the questions someone is bringing to the table.
Some places will be asking questions or giving answers that resonate deeply with us–and that very affinity will become part of what makes the Christian story compelling and believable.
Some places will be pouring out their energies in debates that seem arcane and ridiculous to us–and that very dissonance will become part of what makes the Christian story flimsy and unbelievable.
Some places will demand that Christianity entail certain positions or actions that we cannot endorse, and so not only does that community take a hit in our estimation, but the Christian story as a whole loses its luster.
In the Christian narrative, salvation is a communal affair. This is why I strive to send people to churches that will serve them well–even if those aren’t churches that would so serve me. And that is part of why I keep up this blog.
For all the various disagreements we might have with each other, I am convinced that there is a kind of person out there–someone who lives between giving up the Christianity of their youth, often, but is still passionate about Jesus, someone who might find some peace with God if they were given space to acknowledge various data about the Bible, evolution, sex, –who will find here freedom to keep believing.