thoughts from oak park community

Archive for April, 2011

on community & peace

community is a strange animal.  it is such an interesting and different way to live.  in fact, before when i heard people talk about living in “community” is had this strange peculiarity to it, almost as if they were talking about an entirely different word than the one all the rest of us understand when we say that word.  it was laced with the familiarity of technical jargon, decipherable only to those within the circle.  but all of that jargon seemed to be contained in just this one word: community.

it is a strange word though.  it implies a sense of togetherness, but to what extent?  it’s uses and meanings are wide, so we have to modify it a bit.  intentional christian community.   that is to say, we are not a bunch of hippies living together just passing away the time in the company of others.  nor are we a neighborhood association or some people who get together on our free night of the week, recording our tv shows we miss.  no, we intend to say something more.  though who’s to say we understand any better what our modifiers truly mean.  christian.  intentional.

community means “with unity,” which, put so simply, is a bit jarring in its honesty.  who then is part of a true community, in this hyper-individualized western world?  what is the unity that we apparently have together?  do we take our unity where we can find it and be satisfied with it?  proximity.  living arrangements.  financial obligations.  sitting together in the same room.

our neighborhood has been seemingly plagued with violence lately.  or at least it seems so.  lots of shootings in the area over the last month.  several deaths.  an abnormally high amount of gunshots.  it’s always been around us as long as we’ve lived here though.  maybe now we are just feeling it more, seeing it clearer as it pops up just a few blocks closer.  in any event the need for peace is no mere desire.  it is probably the truest form of an actual need that i have ever known–not just something i want or something that is easily within reach.

we stuggle with how to create peace.  perhaps that is because it is most likely not something within our control.  we pray.  we pray and we pray and we pray.  maybe that is in some ways all we can do.  we could hold vigils with candles.  we could protest to the city government or to the police, charging them with their part in the blame.  we can work for peace in some ways.  and good can come from that.  but in our hearts we know that we cannot create peace.  who in the world can?  only through the threat (or imposition) of violence do those in world maintain an “order” of “peace.”

we find that we are looking within ourselves.  perhaps because that is where we would seemingly have most control.  perhaps because we don’t know where else to look.  or perhaps because we believe that we ourselves must have peace if we are in any way going to able to in some way offer it to anyone in hope.  in some ways though this task seems almost as unattainable.  the wars that rage within ourselves make it all the more harder to reconcile the conflicts that separate us from one another and create fresh wounds inside.  it creates a cycle that is not easily broken.  peace here is no easy task either.

but at least we all want it.  or we say we do, and that in and of itself is something, is perhaps enough to begin with.

with unity.  this word is one that has somehow maintained a certain purity to it over time.  it is rich enough to know that we desire it greatly, even as independent as we love to be.  perhaps its purity comes from the rarity with which we ever see it embodied.  it is hard enough for a husband and wife to live in unity, let alone others without that level of love and commitment.  and yet often they do.  not in perfection, but in word and deed–and in heart.  not always in feeling, but at the end of the day in intention.  it is something to strive after.

what ways are you striving after a true peace and unity?  what are the challenges you face within yourself?  where do you feel violence toward yourself and toward others in your thoughts, actions, or speech? who do you avoid and refuse community with because of how they make you feel or things happened from the past?

may the Lord lead us all to lives more fully immersed in community that draws us closer to him, that makes us people of peace in a harsh world.