When looking at houses to buy, one of the suggested questions to ask is,
What are the neighbours like?
I’m never sure how helpful a question is, because if you’re trying to sell a house, you’re hardly likely to say they’re a nightmare are you?! But the fact that the question is seen as worth asking, shows how important it is to us to live among people who will not cause us any trouble. We all want a harmonious home life.
But neighbours and community extend beyond those we live around.
Today, Henri Nouwen, takes us right to the heart of living as community. He quotes Parker Palmer, who says,
Community is the place where the person you least want to live with also lives
Well, there’s a thought. Just as you can’t change your neighbours in your neighbourhood, and have to learn to co-exist, so the same is true of those we work with, share facilities with, worship with, and share the world with.
True community is not a collection of like-minded people. To be authentic it needs a whole collection of different opinions and outlooks – and that may well include those we wouldn’t choose to be alongside. Why? Because we all need to have our pre-suppositions challenged, our opinions stretched, our understanding enhanced. No one of us holds the full truth or the whole picture. We need to share insights and hear other people’s ideas to get a more rounded view.
Community is also where we get to learn to love. It is easy to love those who are similar to us, who are no challenge to us. It is in learning to love those we would not choose to be with, that we get chance to see and live through the eyes of love, and to experience loving through God’s love.
So, as we find ourselves rubbing shoulders with those who we might least want to, how do we respond? Do we run and hide? Or do we see God in them, the best in them? Do we welcome their ideas, and be grateful for the new insights and depth of understanding they offer us?
Jesus Chooses His Twelve Apostles
10 Jesus called together his twelve disciples. He gave them the power to force out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and sickness. 2 The first of the twelve apostles was Simon, better known as Peter. His brother Andrew was an apostle, and so were James and John, the two sons of Zebedee. 3 Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus were also apostles. 4 The others were Simon, known as the Eager One,and Judas Iscariot,who later betrayed Jesus.
Jesus chose Twelve different people. We know they didn’t all get on, there was jostling over who was the best, moments of sheer brilliance and clarity of understanding, times when they got things very wrong, and one who thought he knew better than even Jesus. But they were the ones that Jesus called, not just to him, but to each other. They were there to learn together – and to support each other when he was no longer with them in body.
I can think of no better prayer today than the one from the book:
Let us understand
our gatherings in church, family and neighbourhood
as a way to find you
in the midst of imperfections
– especially our own
This year for Advent, some friends and I are using Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen. You’re welcome to join us on this journey. Feel free to comment here, or on Twitter using #adventbookclub
Also blogging on the #adventbookclub are: