Towards Community

David Chronic has served with WMF in Romania from 1997 to the present. His article appeared in The Cry, vol. 6, no. 2 (Summer 2000).

When I committed to Word Made Flesh in 1997, I was one of six people on staff. We have since seen tremendous growth in the mission both in terms of expanding fields and growing staff. I am thankful to God for faithfulness and blessing in the work to which we are called. During the past few months, as I have prayed for and reflected on the WMF community, one inexorable thought continues to return to mind: “Why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?”

When we say “our community” about whom are we speaking? What is the community to which we have committed? Who are my people? Jean Vanier asks, “Are my people simply those with whom I live and who have the same outlook as I do, or are they those for whom the community has been created?”

These are important questions because as our community grows, the demands to nurture it also grow. My time and devotion can be quickly spent serving and supporting the field staff or short-term missionaries. Jared Landreth commented on leading the Servant Team in Nepal, “God has called me to serve among the poor; but I have been serving the rich among the poor.” This was not a complaint but rather the reality of the demands of community. It prompts the question: Are my people the group to which I belong, which sustains me spiritually and perhaps materially? Or are my people of the slums – my neighbors? For whom am I ready to give my life?

We are called to seek Jesus among the poorest of the poor. In heeding this call, we desire to offer ourselves to the poor. Our tendency, however, is to invite the poor into our community. We hope to build an open, honest, healing community into which the poor can be integrated. But the poor do not need to be integrated into our community. God is calling us, rather, to identify with theirs. When we move from integration to identification, we close the gap between having two communities: the helpers and the helped, the workers with the poor and the poor themselves.

To understand God’s heart for community, we must ask, “How did Jesus build community?” How did Jesus relate to community? In Jesus’ community, there was no gap between the poor and the disciples. Jesus was sent to proclaim the Good News to the poor (Lk. 4:18). To do this, Jesus became poor (2 Cor. 8:9). When Jesus called his disciples, he called them to leave everything (Lk. 5:11). When he sent his disciples to proclaim the Good News, he sent them with nothing (Lk. 9:3). Jesus and his disciples were among the poor. When Jesus served his disciples, he served the poor and vice versa. This means that if we are to be a community among the poor, we must be a poor community.

Laying aside everything to follow Jesus diminishes the possibility of having two communities, but we must also continue to redefine our identity based on the revelation of God’s love. The identity of our community is based on the fact that the King created us. Therefore, we need revelation of who God is so that we can be conformed to the divine image.

The image of Kingdom community is the image of the Triune God, who is love and whose persons interrelate in love. The Father seeks the Son; the Son does the will of the Father; and the Spirit glorifies the Son. Each prefers the other in love. When we follow in the steps of God’s love, we realize that our community is not our community. We exist for the sake of the Kingdom – and in the Kingdom there is neither rich nor poor.

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