Transforming through community

transforming through community - the hypocrisy gapWe all have a little hypocrite inside. Many of us have a keenly developed sense of what we should do while our actions lag behind. Not only that, we also know what our motivations ought to be, but more often they’re a mixed bag of pure and impure motives. In the language of Bruxy Cavey we experience a hypocrisy gap. That’s the discrepancy between what we know what ought to do and how we ought to be motivated (belief) and our actual motivations and actions. The bigger the discrepancy, the more hypocritical we are. In the illustration, the empty space is the hypocrisy gap.

Unfortunately, left to ourselves, we’ll very rarely force ourselves to do better. Rationalizing away the inconsistencies in our lives isn’t a difficult thing to do. We’re full of excuses about why we’re just not able to do what we know we ought to do. It often takes the voice of another to hold us to account. Only when we’re in community, and only when we’re invested enough in community to heed the input of others, will we allow our shortcomings to be challenged and corrected. That’s for the ways we’re aware we’re falling short, but then there are our collective blind spots.

Blind spots are, well, blind spots, because we’re unaware of the problem. They are the unchallenged assumptions that lead us down erroneous paths. At the risk of setting up a straw man, let me illustrate. If my assumption is that a blessing is primarily a material one, then it would follow that the God who wants to bless me wants to make me rich. If my basic assumption isn’t challenged, I’ll start to see my net worth as the measure of God’s love for me. If God’s blessings go far beyond tangible wealth to peace, love, integrity, holiness, patience and others, then material blessings may actually interfere with the greater blessing that God wants to give me. I might see the circumstances he’s using to bless me as proof of his displeasure.

In the cases where we have blind spots, we need someone who doesn’t share our assumptions to challenge them. This will often be someone quite different than us, whose values and experiences aren’t so closely aligned with our own that they’re likely to share our mistaken beliefs. Personally, this is one of the places I’ve found nightlight to be most valuable to me. The guests who come in each week live life in a very different set of circumstances than I do. They’re opinions and values are often different and interacting with them gives me an opportunity to see things from their perspective. Sometimes, the person’s view is merely self-serving or self-indulgent. Other times, it forces me to consider that maybe it’s my views that are self-serving and self-indulgent. It can be an uncomfortable process, but one that can help us align our beliefs, motivations and actions to the heart of God. It is in this dialogue between my own values and the values of others that I often find insight that help me to see some of my own errors and also to see others as God sees them. But allowing people to have these kinds of interactions, nightlight offers a chance at transforming through community.

Finding Community In Scripture

From the beginning God intended for us to live in relationship with one another. He noted that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, and so, by creating Eve, he created the first community (Genesis 2:20-22). In the same way, when God forms the nation of Israel, he’s creating a community of people who live together in relationship to him and to each other (Exodus 6:7). The church is also such a community, called to encourage one another to Godly living. As the writer of Hebrews says, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.  But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:12-14 NIV). In community we can find both the encouragement needed to act and the truth that helps us correct our own understanding. It’s a foundation of genuine discipleship, and that’s why it’s one of our foundational values.