The purpose of forgiveness part 4: Community

If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
-1 John 1:7

Now that you are a forgiver, how do you live in forgiveness towards and with people; specifically brothers and sisters in Christ?  I have been thinking about how we "miss" each other, as in misunderstand, as in how we try to connect with one another in a disconnected way.

Maybe this stems from our individualism?  Rugged individualism is not the way of Christ.  It is true that we are each special, unique individuals; with individual responsibility, but we are also always part of something, a part of others.  We are family and we are community.  We are born into a family and become part of a community.  We can be very estranged from our family and we can refuse to become a part of the community that we belong to.  And I am talking about fellow Christians.

Christianity is not a solo flight and salvation is a process.

Even The Lone Ranger had Tonto.  Many of us spend some of our lives alone.  More people than ever live alone today, but it is not good to stay alone.  We each are held responsible in this life and at the final judgement for what we do as individuals, but life is lived together.

In Biblical spirituality, there is I and we.  I love God and obey God, and I also do the "one another's".  Here is a link to a post with a list 59 "one another's" from the New Testament.  A few are negative "do not's", and "love one another" occurs 13 times.

Genuine, authentic community is where it is natural to forgive and also where we care enough to confront, and our confrontation is filled with humility and love, truth and sobriety.

We become saved and cross from darkness into light.  This might be as natural as walking down a hall and into a room, if you have been brought up to know the gospel of salvation through Christ.  But for others who have not been raised this way, the experience of salvation might be more dramatic.

But once we become saved, we embark on a process or journey of sanctification, of discipleship; becoming a learner of how to live life in Christ and how to let him live through us.  We are all servants and children of God, which is a paradox.  We are His and we are part of His body and His family.  We must learn how to recognize the other members of His body and His family.

Gathering with the church should be like a family reunion.  And, we welcome each other, want to know each other, and share with each other.  But if we spend enough time together, we discover our differences.  Can we keep listening?  And what happens when we disagree?

Churches in the New Testament had problems getting along and the letters to the churches addressed their problems.

James wrote:

What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don’t they come from your passions that wage war within you?
-James 4:1

We've got those passions that we bring to the fellowship and we want to fight and even go to war with people.  We need to apply and reapply the blood of Jesus.  We need to walk in the light.

John wrote:

If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
-1 John 1:7

Remembrance (re-membering)

Community is linked to the word communion.  How do we commune with the people we take communion with?  

When Jesus said, "Do this, in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), was he talking about getting cleansed?  Yes, I think so.  And, the "this" symbolized in the breaking of the bread together: in Jesus, letting Jesus, participating with Jesus' work in our lives, together, discipling us.  

We do disciple (teach) each other, but the goal of, or the thrust or mechanism of discipleship, is to make people disciples of Jesus.  My mentors who 'sponsored' me, so to speak, answered my questions, but their goal and God's goal for them, was to make me a disciple of Christ.

The Lord's supper, communion, or the eucharist is not a memorial; but a life celebration, where we participate in giving thanks for Christ's redeeming work to not only save us for eternity, but to sanctify us in our lives now.  In communion we participate, we bring to mind, we center our lives; on Christ and his power to cleanse us and make us like him (Christ-ians).

Do you see the link between communion and community?

The message and meaning of communion, and the Gospel, is that God has come to us, to our table so to speak, to save us and change our lives.  The room where that first table was, was a banquet hall, a rented room for a special occasion.  There was nothing special about the table.  The "this" of "do this" was to eat together, remember together, to live (do life) together.  Jesus could have said, "remember as you do this", but he said, "do this as you remember".  The key word is remember.  Yes, we do do this (break the bread and share and eat, and also drink from the cup), but the context is remembrance.

Remembrance means encountering Jesus, the living Christ.  Everyone has their story of how they got saved or born again.  Jesus encountered us and we encountered him and he saved us.  We must and want to further encounter him to be transformed into his likeness.  Discipleship is not just learning, but being in a transformative relationship where Jesus changes us from the inside out. 

Community and communion, remembrance and remembering

"The power of forgiveness is the blood of Jesus." (John and Paula Sandford, The Transformation of The Inner Man, p. 98)

Do you know these songs?
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.
-Lewis E. Jones (1899)
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.
-Fanny Crosby (1875)

Two more quotes from John and Paula Sandford on forgiveness to consider:

"The greatest difficulty concerning forgiveness is that most often we do not know we still cherish resentment, or have lied to ourselves and forgotten...

"People almost invariably think they have forgiven when they haven't... (Sandford, TTOTIM, p. 101)

A lifestyle of forgiveness is the key to living in genuine, authentic community.  Community is a destination that is available, but not automatic.  We have to pay a price to be in community.  Many Christians are not willing to pay the price and their communities, or experience of community, is play acting or just not there, or ingenuine.

What got me thinking about the idea of living in a community of forgiveness and about how certain attitudes and actions, styles of relating involving judgmentalism for example are blocks to a lifestyle of forgiveness, grace, and unconditional agape love, was M. Scott Peck's book, "The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace".  Specifically, I thought of things we do or struggle with doing to or towards each other, that hinder or ruin community.  Pretending to agree, and that we are all the same, or constant fighting, to the point where we at odds and hate each other, over our differences; are both not genuine community.  

Genuine community is where we can get real, be real and transparent, while also being unconditionally loving and forgiving.  Some of the ideas below, I gleaned from Peck's book, The Different Drum, chapter 5; put in my own words and quoted where it is straight out of the book.

There is irony and paradox involved in how we say we want the high road of community, but resist and avoid paying the price.  Community only comes when we embrace a shared experience of brokenness.  Some people are very afraid to take off their masks.

What community is not versus genuine Christian community

Community is not the avoidance of disagreement.  

In the community of Christ, we have unity in Christ, but not uniformity.  We can have differences, but they do not define us or our relationships.  Community is in Christ and through Christ.  The common center that is gathered around, for the church, is Christ.  

Clubs or teams gather around a goal, work, or philosophy.  

And in genuine Christian community, we do not size people up and define our relating to them by how we are different or disagree, but through Christ.  The center of Christian community is the redeemer, the healer, the deliverer, he who transforms us.  His incarnation, death on the cross, and resurrection life is the center of the church, that the church gathers around and relates through and is given life from.

Community is not the avoidance of conflict.  There may be no conflict in genuine community, but this is not because they are avoiding it, but because they are able to navigate conflict when it comes.  The group or couple or friends who proudly share that they never fight might be conflict avoidant rather than able to fight carefully.

Community is not the ignoring of differences, nor is it to be non-offensive or to pretend you are not offended.  The smooth operation of relating to one another through good manners or denial does not make for authentic community.

Community is not where we all agree on issues, but agree on and in Christ, while having many differences on the issues of life.  And we may not have the same understanding or knowledge or relationship to Christ; but we must have a common union to the Lord Jesus Christ to have a bond from which community between us can grow.

Conformity to generalities and denial of individual differences is not real community.  Hiding differences or doubts or disagreements is not genuine.  

Speaking, communicating, relating in generalities; as in saying how we all know how it is, rather than personalizing it with "I", "My", or "Me"; is not real community.  An example from Peck's book was a lady that said. "divorce is a terrible thing".  A better way for her to put is was, "my divorce was terrible for me".  Another person in the community might think and want to say, "my divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me".  You can see how that when the first lady makes the generality that supports her experience, is quashes community differences and then makes it possibly uncomfortable for the second person to share.  Does the second person deny their differences or risk denigrating a hurting person?  In authentic community, differences in opinion or experiences are allowed and enjoined.

Now that we've said that we want real community centered around Christ, we want to love one another and forgive each other, bear with one another and so forth:  We can agree that we want to obey what the scriptures prescribe for how to be together.  But the problem is resistance.  We need something but we don't want to do something.  And what we do towards others is counterproductive to community.

James wrote:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?
-James 4:1 (ESV)

I want to mention that quarreling and fighting is very different than disagreements, arguments, discussions, or debate.  Being quarrelsome, like nagging, is antithetical to community.  

The way of the world is selfishness.  Outside of Christ, people are naturally selfish: self-centered, narcissistic.  Christians have to make an effort to not be selfish.  And in the way of the world, leadership is top-down: I am above you and tell you what I want you to do.  But Jesus, instead modeled a different kind on leadership called servanthood.  

A person who becomes a Christian, gets born-again, get saved; now begins a life of ,"how then shall we live?"

Paul wrote:

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
-Philippians 2:12

People who are in Christ, who are forgiven and are forgivers and are lovers; find themselves in community with one another.  Your community might be your family, your small group, your ministry team, or your whole church community.  You might join a new church or go on a retreat with a group of Christians and work towards being a community together.  How does this work itself out?  In his book, A Different Drum, M. Scott Peck identified stages of community forming; and here are some notes from chapter 5 of his book:

Chaos stage

In the chaos stage, we go from being overly polite to getting real so much so that it could be received as controlling, and maybe it is purely a, "for your own good", controlling, as in "we're gonna get you healed/saved/matured/righted whether you like it or not".  And when people feel pushed or controlled they might push back or resist.  And chaos ensues.

This might be like your first fight or disagreement in a relationship.  How will you weather it?  Will the relationship survive?  Some people only know polite, 'go along to get along', or, 'controlling' styles.  But community is give and take, not, "my way or the highway".

Fighting or the awareness that we disagree is far better than pretending denial.  Awareness of division means you know there is work to be done.  The statement, "I never knew you felt that way", comes from a relationship where previously there has not been authenticity, openness, listening, or equality.  Someone was controlling or someone was quiet.  If you speak up and there is conflict, you have more of a relationship going than before.  You are moving towards community and intimacy by getting real.


There are two roads out of the chaos of open disagreements: emptiness or organization.  And only emptiness leads to community.  Organization means that we acknowledge our differences and work around them in order to function.  The emptiness that leads to community is a means of letting go or of getting rid of barriers to communication.  Some examples:
  • Assumptions and ideas that are "pre-judices", often unconscious.
  • Expectations and preconceptions or how things will go, need to go with us.
  • Ideological or theological judgementalism based on pride.
  • The need to fix others- solve their problems, like Job's "comforters".
  • The need to control and fear of failure: "if I don't take the wheel, no one will and we will crash".
This list could be much longer but exclusively contains items or ways that block community communication.  When we gather together, we need to set these aside, lay them down, cease and desist these dysfunctional ways of relating that really are not loving nor Christlike.  

It will be very foreign, very hard, and very scary to not function in these ways if that has been how you have always related to others.  When we "stop it", there is emptiness which leads to brokenness.  Another way of looking at it, is that the old way is broken, or by stopping it, I am now broken, I feel like I can not function.  Therefore, I am now experiencing emptiness.

In order to be raised to a new life in and with Christ, I must first be crucified with Christ.  I stand and see Jesus on the cross, dying for my sins; and I receive him as my savior and Lord, on my knees weeping.  But then he asks me to take up my cross and follow him.

To have resurrection life, death must occur.  We can only relate to people in community, we can only become a community with people after emptiness and brokenness.


A marker of genuine community is open, vulnerable sharing.  We acknowledge one another's testimony, experience, suffering, joy, struggle, or fears; while sharing our own.  We share life together in the brokenness of not controlling each other, fixing each other, judging each other, and being un-gracious.  The atmosphere is peace in an environment of love.

Some people will be so used to doing the things that are not genuinely loving, that come from selfishness or pride and superiority, that what I am describing here to them might seem like a mind-control cult.  They might think or say, "of course I need to call you out", "of course I need to fix you", "of course I have to judge you because you are so wrong", "of course we need to be productive as a group and meet goals of learning, so I've got to, or someone's got to exert some control over this group of people to get it done".

-Community will fall back at times into 'pseudo community' or chaos and then find its way back through emptiness and brokenness, or go into authoritarian organization.

-A genuine community is a safe place or a sanctuary.  Genuine community is not easy.  The joy of community comes after struggle, anxiety, frustration, and fatigue.

A word of warning is that the freedom, joy, and love found in community brings up sexual and romantic feelings in many people.  Peck wrote that these should be suppressed and expressed in the other non-erotic forms of love.

Lastly, what is the purpose or goal of community?  In a single word, "glory" (Peck).  

The glory of God is the center and Jesus' death and shed blood on the cross, paying for our sins and his rising from the dead is a glorious thing.  Jesus loves The Father and brings glory to Him.

Let us read John, chapter 17.  Warren Wiersbe wrote this:

“Whether He prayed it in the Upper Room or en route to the Garden, this much is sure: it is the greatest prayer ever prayed on earth and the greatest prayer recorded anywhere in Scripture. John 17 is certainly the ‘holy of holies’ of the Gospel record, and we must approach this chapter in a spirit of humility and worship.” (Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1: New Testament; p. 367)

I have underlined the words glory, glorify, and glorified.

John chapter 17

Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent —Jesus Christ. I have glorified you on the earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with that glory I had with you before the world existed.

“I have revealed your name to the people you gave me from the world. They were yours, you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you, because I have given them the words you gave me. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from you. They have believed that you sent me.

“I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they are yours. Everything I have is yours, and everything you have is mine, and I am glorified in them. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I was protecting them by your name that you have given me. I guarded them and not one of them is lost, except the son of destruction, so that the Scripture may be fulfilled. Now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy completed in them. I have given them your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I am not praying that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify myself for them, so that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in me through their word. May they all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me, so that they may be made completely one, that the world may know you have sent me and have loved them as you have loved me.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they will see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the world’s foundation. Righteous Father, the world has not known you. However, I have known you, and they have known that you sent me. I made your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved me with may be in them and I may be in them.”
-John 17