I went out walking for the majority of the past four summers (and some of one winter, too), and this year I'm not. I'm going to stay here at Reba Place. Which is a change. But my intentions and convictions and expectations haven't changed, and I want to remind myself of these as I open this journal.

I began last summer's journal with these quotes, and I think they're still important for me to see:

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all this they will do to you on my account..." (John 15.18-21)

And from Jacques Ellul's The Politics of God and the Politics of Man (my italics):
The action we attempt will always be regarded by the world as a failure, and the more so the more it is authentically faithful. We cannot be successful or show the church to be effective in the world unless we adopt the world's criterion of efficacy, which means adopting its means as well.

As the world sees it, action which is faithful to God will always fail, just as Jesus Christ necessarily went to the cross. Such action always leads to a dead end. It is always a fiasco from the standpoint of worldly power. But this should not worry us. It does not mean that our action is in truth ineffectual. Efficacy measured in terms of faithfulness cannot be compared at any point with efficacy measured in terms of success.

...These successes, this efficacy as it would be called from man's standpoint, and especially in our own society, will never amount to anything more than the approval given by the world, by society, to certain acts and means. It is the stamp of a group of men, a social body. But if we do not believe that society is good and right, this approval proves nothing except that the action is in conformity with the world. It does not mean that the world has changed; quite the contrary. Each time the people of God becomes effective according to the world's criteria, this only implies that society has absorbed our action and is using it for its own ends and for its own profit. ...The efficacy we think we have is simply a power in the world's service, for the perfecting of its own being, for its better organization....

There can be no question of securing the approval of the world or its conformity to us. ...We have simply to be, and we can only be a question put within the world, a question invincibly confronting it. This is our efficacy. It is the efficacy of the question, a question which society and sociological movements cannot assimilate. Israel and the church have never been efficacious except to the degree that the world has been unable to assimilate them. This is the vocation of the people of God incomparably more authentic than "service" or "works."

It is not at the level of works and their results that this efficacy may be seen; it is at the level of inassimilability.

Feeling the resistant pressure (or persecution) of "the world" was a major reason for me going out walking. Putting myself right in contact with the animosity of the world against the poor, the weak, the stranger. And I do think it's easier to identify when living in a Christlike way right out "on the street." But I also believe that animosity is really present everywhere (didn't Jesus face the greatest resistance and animosity "in church"?). So I think I can (and ought to, and will) encounter the same thing if I stay here, though it will probably be more subtle and call for a greater focus and faithfulness on my part.

One area where I have already experienced this here--and probably will even more in the future--is related to these favorite passages of mine from Kierkegaard's Training in Christianity:
[The God-relationship] must be for every individual man the absolute, and it is precisely this God-relationship of the individual which must put every established order in suspense, so that God, at any instant He will, by pressure upon the individual has immediately in his God-relationship a witness, a reporter, a spy, or whatever you prefer to call it, one who in unconditional obedience, or by unconditional obedience, by persecution, suffering, and death, puts the established order in suspense.
There is an "established order" here, clearly. And the heavy emphasis on "community" (above everything else, it seems) is certainly in some respects harmful to the individual (and our relationship with God).

I believe wholeheartedly that the community experience of becoming part of the Body of Christ is central to the Christian life. But the Body (the one true Community) is never against the individual, who is always loved and given complete freedom. Conversely, humanly instituted "communities" (nations, corporations, institutions) are always against the individual, who they do not love. Because they cannot. ("Only persons can love," I once wrote in a journal, and institutions are not persons--no matter how hard we try to personify or spiritualize them.)

But society (at every level) makes it very difficult to resist "the established order." Kierkegaard continues (my italics):
When the individual appeals to his God-relationship in opposition to the established order, it looks indeed as if he made himself more than a man. Nevertheless, he does not by any means do that; for he concedes that every man, absolutely every man, has or should have for his part the same relationship to God. As little as one who says he is in love denies by this that others have the same experience, just so little or even less does such an individual deny that another (but always as an individual) has the same God-relationship. But the established order refuses to entertain the notion that it might consist of so loose an aggregation of millions of individuals each of which severally has his own God-relationship. The established order desires to be totalitarian, recognizing nothing over it, but having under it every individual who is integrated in it. And 'that individual,' who expounds the most humble, but at the same time the most humane doctrine about what it means to be a man, the established order desires to terrify by imputing to him the guilt of blasphemy.
This is true in my experience as well. And I agree with his conclusion:
...he who disparages such an established order [in this way] is regarded as one who makes himself more than a man, and people are offended in him, although in reality he merely makes God God and man man.