“If you really knew me, would you still love me?”
When Pastor Chuck Hayes stated the question, it clarified for me how to define authentic Christian community.
What am I looking for? I’m looking for the community where the answer to that question is yes.
I’m looking for the community where …
I’m heard. Just because I speak doesn’t mean you’re listening. We know when people aren’t listening. They may hear what we’re saying but their responses seem canned. They look around the room. They wait for a pause then hijack the conversation.
But we also know when people show a genuine interest in what we’re saying. They face us. They ask questions. They repeat what we’ve said.
I’m accepted. No matter what doubts I express, I don’t suddenly become the pagan in the room. I can share difficult truths … “Our unmarried daughter is pregnant.” “I lost my job because I was viewing pornography at work.” “I said some things to my wife I shouldn’t have.” “I’m wrestling with suicide.”
Not only am I heard, but I’m accepted as I am.
I’m challenged. In our conversation, Chuck said, “Listening, honoring the other person, is perhaps the highest expression of valuing another person. The ideal Christian community is where people are heard, understood, and loved. But it doesn’t mean their ideas are all embraced.”
Chuck and I, along with our friend Greg, have taken several multi-city baseball trips together over the years. During our conversation, Chuck asked me why I enjoyed those trips so much.
The trip starts with a common passion, a love for baseball. We talk about lots of things. We speak. We listen. We accept one another as we are (Cubs fan, Royals fan, and Astros fan).
But something else happens on those trips. We talk long enough and deep enough that I’m challenged to live a better life.
After Chuck asked me the “Why do you like …” question, I recognized something significant for me. Being heard and accepted opens the door into community. But if that’s all that happens, I’ll enter but I won’t stay.
I need to know community will challenge me to go deeper in my faith and its practical expression.
Let me offer this simple truth. You and I need community. Something in the way we’re wired searches for a place where we can ask the important question. If you really knew me, would you still love me?
To find the yes community, we ask three specific questions.
Do people listen? This is the first question we need to ask because it requires the least amount of disclosure on our part. In fact, we don’t have to say anything at all. We can observe how people respond to one another.
Do people offer acceptance? This question asks a little more of us. At some point, we’ve got to offer a peek behind the curtain, let people see the messy side of our lives.
Do people express doubts? Do they wrestle with real life issues? How does the community respond to the person who’s going through a divorce or a job loss or troubles with a wayward child?
Do people grow? As I’ve noted earlier, listening and accepting are important ingredients to a healthy community. But having those two elements without growth is like attending an AA meeting where everybody’s a buddy but nobody’s recovering from alcoholism. The cycle becomes one of meeting, learning something new, and going home to the same old, unchanging routine.
Does the community embrace a passionate future? Does it show signs of movement toward that future? Does it learn and apply truth? Does it, while accepting people where they are, also challenge them to grow?
I’m curious. What ties you to a particular community? How well does your community experience line up with the three questions? What can you share that illustrates a lively, growing community?
Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes
Two men. Two eternal destinies.
One common hope.
My novel can be found at:
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