The Messy Relating Community

Relational Challenges

Not seeing it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Last week, I had to deal with a situation that was starting to affect my personal emotional well-being. It had to do with this new phrase I learned called “ghosting.” Ghosting is the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. There was a breakdown of the relationship and now there’s no communication going on and it was beginning to spill over into our church community. I had to do something.

It was something very hard to do, and everything in me wanted to avoid doing it. But, the reason why I finally broke through the avoidance is because I found myself living in what Scott Peck calls “pseudo-community.” He writes, “Pseudo-community has as its hallmark the avoidance of conflict. In pseudo-community we keep things safe; we speak in generalities; we say things that those around us all agree with; tell little white lies to make sure no one’s feelings get hurt; no one gets tense and keeps relationships pleasant and well-oiled. In this type of community, our conversations are carefully filtered to make sure no one gets offended; if we feel hurt or irritated, you’re careful to hide it. Pseudo-community is agreeable and polite and gentle and stagnant and ultimately fatal.”

To pretend to “live in community and be in community” was ultimately making me feel like an imposter. I was putting up a front in my mind to protect the situation but really, I was trying to protect my reputation. I was caught in the relational vortex, and I couldn’t get out. Deep inside I was fuming, and it was harming my soul. It wasn’t a matter of forgiving as that would have been an easy thing to offer, but it was the avoidance and “ghosting” in a relationship that couldn’t be avoided. There was a sin against me and attempts to communicate were not responded to. There was a hurt, and I had to make a choice to uncover it.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, says this, “Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than a severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.”

The apostle Paul called it “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15). It is what Peck says we should be willing to enter the chaos of truth-speaking. Chaos is unpleasant. It makes us feel out of control, and the addict inside us wants to be in control. So, in the chaos of letting the truth out, there are no guarantees. There’s going to be negative emotions that must be acknowledged and discussed.

Think about it. Jesus was always upsetting the applecart, he never chose the convenience of avoiding someone’s attitudes or behavior. Jesus caused a lot of chaos in his day. Whether it be the disciples arguing about “who was the greatest?” or calling Peter out in his wrong assessment of the Messiah’s plans to confronting the religious leaders about their dead religion. Jesus never walked away from a moment that would bring great healing and growth in the person because he was willing to cause a little chaos.

We often tell people what they want to hear, and we’re all guilty of padding a compliment to make someone feel good about themselves. “Self-deception,” writes Neil Plantinga, “is a mysterious process of pulling the wool over our eyes.” We all have this amazing capability to live in denial and not deal with implications of our actions or inactions.

I made my plan, waited on it for several days, I asked my wife to speak into my plan, let a few trusted friends review it as well and then I acted on it. I didn’t take the step because I was trying to pick a fight; I was trying to end one. I didn’t send it to cause embarrassment but to bring encouragement. God formed a community of the Triune God, and He invites us into this perfect community. It was through the original sin that this perfect community of God and humanity was made imperfect. The loss of community is not God’s intent.

Jesus Christ made the Trinity’s wish clear when He told us to “pray that we would be one” (cf. John 17:21). Our belonging to something greater than ourselves is what compels us to give up our individuality and belong to something far greater than whatever the individual might get out of it. God is building a community of people, but sometimes He uses the chaos to make it happen.

I initiated the contact, created the chaos, and I’m released of the inner-turmoil of hiding the pain. There’s a calm to my chaos.

Is it finished? Is the relationship healed?

No, but I’m free.

Community arises where the sharing of pain takes place, not as a stifling form of self-complaint, but as a recognition of God’s saving promises. A Christian community is, therefore, a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision” Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

 

Grateful for John Ortberg’s writings on God’s community in Everyone’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them.

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