Does everybody love everybody?” My father’s booming baritone would sound with a faint hint of warning as his four teenagers would be scrambling for their preferred television channel, the comfortable couch, or worst of all, leg room in the station wagon.
At the sound of this warning we would squelch our resentments temporarily and assume the kind of pseudo-peace that was the best we could produce amongst each other.
It was good training for going to church, but not for living in the kingdom.
I have experienced Christian community that surely must be as close to heaven as one can be in this life. Jesus walked among us, and as our eyes were on him, the Word came to life in us and between us. We loved each other’s differences and gloried in the unity we could not make, but took care not to break. The moments were timeless and indelibly written on my heart.
But I have also tasted the bitterness of Christian community when the enemy has gotten a foothold. Like Peter, we are sifted like wheat, and every grievance, every trace of bitterness, every irritating characteristic of each other interlocks and “all hell breaks loose.” These times are confusing, paralyzing, and soul wounding. They leave scars that time does not erase from the heart.
No, everybody did not love everybody. Lord, have mercy.
In seasons of great unity the silence of a cell is a place where we ask the Lord to show us anything in our hearts that could endanger the unity the Holy Spirit is making among us. Because unity is fragile, and our enemy finds the cracks in each of our souls.
“Let him who is alone beware of community. Let him who is not in community beware of being alone” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Life Together)