A Community Manifesto (pt. 3)
To continue the thought from the previous posts... What naturally forms out of Paul's discussion of idol meat in 1 Cor. 8-10 (11 is an expansion of the original thought) is the idea of practicing the discipline of community. It is a sense of knowing each other's weakness, which entails that we are honest and open about our weaknesses, as well as taking into account the role and action of love within the community. The self-centered Corinthian community was engaged fully in ignorance-of-other as part of regular worship. They fought for their own way, rights, and needs largely because their highly pagan, variously-influence culture supported that way of being. Not to mention the ever-present threat of being shut down by the Romans or ratted out by the antagonistic parts of the Jewish community.
What happens in 1 Cor. 8-10 is that Paul offers two examples: 1) himself and 2) Israel engaged in idolatry to illustrate this discipline of community. The interesting thing is that most of us believe community began with the disciples fleshed out in Acts 2. I would argue that it begins somewhere around Genesis 12 (covenant with Abraham) and is given full voice in the construction of Israel in exodus from Egypt.
The nation of Israel was intended to embody God-honoring community. National identity was meant to fortify and instruct Godly community, not create a theocratic gang of spoiled brats...which happened in small areas of Judaism namely in 70 AD and 135 AD.
Paul invokes his own rights as an apostle in chapter 9 but surrenders them in order to maintain, instruct, and guide the churches he serves. This is Paul's way of maintaining community with so many different groups. This is also the source of frustration for Biblical interpretation, as Paul seemingly presents conflicting views ("Don't get married" 1 Cor. 7 vs. "Husb/wife" household code in Eph. 5), when in fact it is simply Paul's practicing "ethics as ecclesiology." He holds his own forsaking of rights up as an example, and he also holds up the failure of Israel to avoid idolatry as an example of anti-community. As we see from passages like Joshua 7, Israel sank or swam together. Not alone--the battle of Ai is deep-sixed by one family's greed and the nation pays for it. Therefore, chapter 10's admonition and teaching on the idolatry of Israel paints a clear picture for the discipline of community--to ignore your brothers and sisters in order to celebrate your own rights is like idolatry. "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons."
The cup of the Lord is the discipline of community along with the other various disciplines that shape individuals for community, "loving one another" being foremost.
The Joad's, in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, experience both the lack of and presence of the disicpline of community. They experience the presence of it when people such as the Wilson's give of themselves to fellow travellers. Or when neighboring families help with digging a levy at the boxcar "Hooverville." They experience the lack of the discipline when the family begins to crack under the pressure and "poor people" can no longer be trusted.
As a move towards community today, both the Joad's and the Corinthians were trying to do community in an environment that was intellectually and physically hostile to the fabric that forms in a disciplined community. My cry is that the church is constantly being fractured by the lack of practice in this discipline, mostly because Western enlightenment individualism will not allow for those who give up themselves for others.
Mainly because the end result of that is a community of socialists. Capitalists cannot fully commit to this way of being, because the decision is to steep. I'm not saying capitalists (the people) are unbiblical, but as always the call of "ethics is ecclesiology" is not respectful of economic, social, cultural, or physical boundaries. This brings into account fair trade, Wal-Mart, and the consumer church in America.
Question: Can this definition and discussion be shaped further? How do we practice/how do you practice the discipline of community where you are? If you are not practicing it, is there now a call before you to do so?
I look forward to your discussion. Be well.