Here are some basic elements of community that I have found in my short experience. Some of the things I say may seem harsh. Don’t take any of this in a heavy/legalistic sense. And if you feel you are strong don’t point these things out in others as an excuse to not whole-heartedly love and receive your brother/sister. Everyone must take this attitude: 1) i will not abuse my brothers and sisters, and 2) I will endure abuse from my brothers and sisters. Number one weeds out those who just want to “get” and don’t want to “give”, and makes the reality of point 2 possible. Community is not an excuse for laziness or negative living patterns. But, rest assured, we all will be called upon to endure abuse from one another along this communal road.
And in speaking of community I am talking about something deeper than casual friendship or civic involvement. I am speaking of the intentional attitude of individuals to share their lives with one another with the goal of growing in relationship. I am speaking of a group of individuals who are seeking to unite their lives with one another in the many practical aspects of life: economically, socially, spiritually, spaciouly, etc. I am not speaking of an absolute communism where everyone must make the same amount of money, share all possessions, and live in one big house. But, I am speaking of a continual opening up, and sharing, of all aspects of our life for the sake of commonality, oneness, and fellowship.
So, if what I just said doesn’t excite you at all you probably aren’t a prime candidate for an experiment in living this way.
1) Community must have this common foundation: The belief that true happiness comes through interpersonal relationships. The Riches that are sought above all others is fellowship with God and with your brothers and sisters.
2) If you are a man or woman who believes that other things will bring you genuine happiness (the pursuit of literal riches, possessions, pleasures, etc) you will never truly enter into community and you may hamper those who are seeking that reality. Now, please understand the difference between struggle (which we all have) and the active pursuit of other things. It is one thing to struggle. Community is perfect for the one who struggles. Why? Because community is both the destinaiton and the journey. We know that relationship with God and with humans is our goal- that which brings us true fulfillment and happiness. And it’s in community that we are delivered from our struggles and reminded of what we truly desire. But if you are actively pursuing other things as the source of your happiness you will not be a productive member of community. You will be always taking and never giving, and that is not a good dynamic for growing community.
3) Leave your baggage at the door. We all have baggage. We all have things that we are working through, and that’s okay. However, community is a place for giving and taking. We give and receive both good and bad, and together we grow into people of wholeness. However, if you are not really serious about being freed from your baggage then you can hurt community. In community you are not only called upon to bear your soul and share your burdens, but you’re also called upon to bear the burdens of others. If your whole life is consumed with self and your own baggage you will only be a burden to others. Please, enter into community with the desire to be freed from your baggage and to assist your brothers and sisters in their deliverance as well.
4) Work and take charge of your finances. If you are not willing to do everything you can to support yourself and your family then chances are you will only be a burden to communtiy (just as well those who abuse welfare are a burden to society in general). However, sometimes we do all we can and come up short. Here community is a safeguard. Those with much should supply those with little, that all may have enough. Each community must decide what work is. Work is not just laboring for money. We can work in our community by caring for our children, working in our general community to establish the kingdom of God, or using our unique gifts or skills to help one another.
5) This is why simplicity is such a key. Simplicity means that I am not working to have many things. I am working to make enough money to supply the basic needs of myself and my family- the excess being for the struggling poor in our midst. This means that I probably don’t have to work all day long. I will have time in my day set aside for interaction with my brothers and sisters. This is the balance to my previous thought. If you don’t have money and aren’t paying your bills you may have to work more. But, if you are working more simply because you want more than what is necessary that is your own burden, and one that hampers the possibility of growth in community.
Just some practical thoughts that you may find helpful especially if you are with a group of people who are considering sharing in this type of community.