"Follow me"

I've been thinking a lot about community and how it often gravitates towards the "lowest common denominator." Even (or especially) in Christian community. In trying to be "loving" or "accepting" of the spiritually weaker or less mature individuals, the community tends to become characterized by (and ordered around) what the least Christ-like among them can handle. Which tends to drag others down rather than lifting the weakest up.

I know several things Paul says tends to suggest we adapt ourselves to "the weaker brother." And I think there is something important in that. We shouldn't tempt a weaker conscience or push people beyond what they can do in faith. But I like what Paul says in Romans 14 (one of those "weaker brother" passages):

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
We readily accept the "make peace" part ("Don't rock the boat", "Can't everyone just get along?," etc). But we often overlook the "mutual upbuilding" part. Really, I think those two are often in tension--what makes for mutual upbuilding usually disturbs the peace!

And look at Jesus in his relationship to his close community of disciples. Did he slow down for them? Did he take the wider, easier path because he knew his disciples couldn't keep up if he took the narrow, difficult way? No. He took the hard, perfect Way--even though he ended up leaving all his disciples behind! (At the garden of Gethsemene--though his example there and on the cross helped the disciples catch up with him eventually.)

Jesus' community is definitely not a "lowest common denominator" community. He regularly disturbed the communal peace for the sake of mutual upbuilding, and even warned his disciples about this:
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

"For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person's foes will be those of their own household." (Mt 10.34-36)

Jesus called his community together with the words, "Follow me." The only way to be a part of his community was to stay close to him, in the very risky and challenging places he was going. Thus Jesus community was (and always is) characterized by him--not by the member weakest in faith, but by the most perfect.

Again, the only way we can be among Jesus' followers is by following (not just by "being loved" where we are). The only way we can stay close to him is by being where he is.

And he's way at the front of the pack.