Slow Church: Community, Continuity and Interdependency
we're all marching to our own drummers
There’s a delightful little passage that I came across yesterday morning during my coffee with God. I’d read it before, but one of the things I love about reading the Bible is that the same passage, read at a different time and place, brings to light different truths. It’s like a gem, held up to the light, and refracting differently depending on the angle and the light; the living word indeed!
Anyway, the story is in I Samuel 30, where David slaughters some Amalekites. Don’t, for the moment, get hung up on the slaughter. I’ll deal with that in a later post. For now though, notice what happens after the victory’s been won. David is coming home with the other warriors, and they’ve taken lots of bounty, the spoils of war, back with them. When they get home, David insists that the soldiers share the bounty with 200 soldiers who were too tired to fight with the rest. As David’s ready to share the spoils of war with the others, those who went into battle say: “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spil that we have recovered, except to every man his wife and his children.” In other words, it’s “every man for himself” as the saying goes.
David will have none of it though, and insists on the dividing the bounty equally among those who fought on the front lines and those who stayed home. CLICK! That’s my camera taking a snapshot of healthy community: People caring for each other, including the weak caring for the strong; nobody in need – that’s the way it’s supposed to work. There are some very important lessons here, if we’ll take a moment and ponder:
1. Community requires Continuity. Right after moving to Seattle, I was at the home of some folk from the church where I’d just taken up leadership. It was a wonderful evening of conversation, food, and real heartfelt sharing of life. I said, “what you have here is amazing. How can we build small groups with this kind of intimacy?” Without hesitation someone said, “It’s easy. Stick together for twenty years.” This is a direct affront to the idols of mobility and consumerism that characterize our culture. We get offended, or bored, or things get difficult and so, with all the ease of changing from Cheerios to the Frosted Flakes, we “move on” in search of a church, or spouse, city that better “meets our needs.”
We can do that, but understand this: there’s no community without continuity. The 200 who didn’t go into battle didn’t arrive just yesterday. They were part of the community when they were strong and others were weak. Now they’re week and others are strong. Seasons of giving; seasons of receiving. You can’t experience this without putting down some roots and settling in.
2. Community requires Interdependency. Romans 15:1 speaks of the strong caring for those who are in a moment of weakness. There oughtn’t be arrogance in those of strength because they are either weak in other ways, or will be weak on other days. We need each other, more than we know. This cuts straight across the grain of our deeply held individualism. The vision, exemplified in David’s little group, and unfolded further in the early chapters of Acts, is a clear testimony of interdependency. It means I share my excess today, and when I have a shortage tomorrow, someone else will be there for me.
To some this sounds idyllic. To others it sounds terrifying. To me it’s both. To nearly all of us though, it’s quite foreign. Are we being swept along by the tides of individualism and consumerism? Both the testimony of Christ, and our collective well being is at stake. How encourage one another to swim upstream, back towards the headwaters of genuine community, in a context of interdependency and continuity?
I welcome your thoughts.