friends are community too

We're having a discussion night this weekend with the teens here. During the last discussion there was interest in the topic of "community" (something we're also discussing in Sunday school), so I thought we'd follow up on that. But I'd like to talk about the different forms of community, like friends, or family, not just the "intentional community" form that is usually discussed. I think the teens might be more interested in these forms, and they are also more able to affect these communities, make them stronger.

I was reminded of something I wrote in my journal two years ago ("organic community"):

"The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear..." (Mk 4.26-28)

The problem of idolizing our institutions arises with the power and pride of gathered people. So the temptation is greatest when we come together in groups. But we are meant to come together, we need to. So how do we come together without institutionalizing our communities, how do we cooperate with one another without idolizing our organizations?

I think there are clues in the imagery used to describe community in the bible. Images like a growing plant, a living body. Images of marriage and family. These are natural, God-given, God-created relationships and organisms. Not man-made institutional relationships or humanly designed organizations. The difference is quite stark. Yet what we call "community" (clubs, religious organizations, political groupings) are almost always of the institutional sort. Even among Christian intentional communities, the designation "intentional" speaks of how much these are human creations. Yet most people's more satisfying experience of community is among naturally occurring friendships and family relationships. Natural community. Organic community. The kind that sprouts and grows "we know not how."

This is also how I envision the one, true community we all long for, the body of Christ. A living being, given by God, spreading like leaven and growing like a plant, not designed or governed or ordered by us, with diverse members known by the head and coordinated by the head, the head being Christ.

Can we recognize and let ourselves be drawn into the life of this organic community, instead of continually constructing (and idolizing) our own organizations?