To get to the bottom of this one we turned to early church fathers like Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome and Polycarp. We've been reading their writings, some of which are the oldest Christian writings outside of the NT Canon. Besides being fascinating, they give us a record of the early church leaders who tried desperately to maintain and promote unity and love in a way that made me picture a large man trying to bear hug a tub full of jello.
The harder they tried, the more dissolute it became.
The more we love something, the more we tend to want to build a cage for it to "keep it safe". And yet a cage, no matter how gilded, is not that for which we've been made. It's only the open hand that is a suitable container for community.
"If there is true Christian love in a man, let him carry out the rpecepts of Christ. who can describe the constraining power of a love for God? its majesty and its beauty who can adequately express? no tongue can tell the heights to which love can uplift us. Love binds us fast to God. Loves casts a veil over sins innumerable There are no limits to love's endurance, no end to its patience. Love is without servility, as it is without arrogance. Love knows of no divisions, promotes no discord; all the works of love are done in perfect fellowship. It was in love that all God's chosen saints were made perfect; for without love nothing is pleasing to Him. It was in love that the Lord drew us to Himself; because of the love he bore us, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the will of God, gave His blood for us - His flesh for our flesh, His life for our lives." - Clement of Rome
A sustainable community is possible if we allow ourselves to be what we are rather than what we want everyone else to be. Like a good marriage, we may come together for an ideal we perceive in the other but ultimately we stay together and build a marriage because we give up the illusion, empty our selves and embrace who the other really is. Instead of insisting each should behave like Christ we learn to discover the treasure that is Christ hidden in the other. Let our love for one another be the flexible container in which true community can grow.
"My friends ain't the way I wish they were / They are just the way they are" - Brother's Keeper, Rich Mullins