“Within the discipline of community are the disciplines of forgiveness and celebration. Forgiveness and celebration are what make marriage, friendship, and any other form of community possible.”
— HENRI J. M. NOUWEN (1932-1996)
If ‘community’ is the noun then ‘love’ is the verb. And love is made of many different facets of that of a diamond, where we tend to downplay the disciplinary facets. Community is the name we give to what happens when two or more are joined functionally at the hip, and that occurs when love is made real.
Love, we have to imagine, is no pretty or romantic thing; it is voluminous, even gargantuan, by the way it manifests in intricate ways as the essential vehicle to community.
Henri Nouwen states quite plainly, above, that community is entirely contingent on forgiveness and celebration, and we might even proffer to think that forgiveness is the precursor; that any celebration would be stifled for lack of forgiveness.
We need to know here that if we aren’t prepared to do the work of love involved in forgiveness, we are not prepared to do what we need to do to make community possible. Where we are not prepared to journey along the trajectory of forgiveness we might as well give up our desires for community.
Still too many organisations in this world—and churches are so familiar in this—believe that they can do community without forgiveness and celebration, which are disciplines all their own.
The Discipline of Community
We don’t get community unless we are prepared to be intentional; deliberate in our means toward an end that has been transported in love.
Intentionality, as the Dutch pastor may have been proclaiming, is the bedrock of discipline. If we are disciplined enough in our execution of community we will not pass over the importance of forgiveness and celebration. No, our processes will adhere to these two things.
If we are seriously committed regarding community—whether that is marriage or church or team or a friendship—we are to be just as seriously committed to doing all we can in procuring forgiveness.
Just the same, where we are seriously committed in establishing and maintaining community we will be disciplined to the point of celebrating every communal truth as truths we share—good, bad or indifferent. Community is not about perfection. It’s about seeing things as they ought to be seen by the community as a whole.
Communities don’t just happen. Whether it is a marriage, a church fellowship, a team, or a friendship, they work or don’t work according to how much work we put into both forgiveness and celebration. We cannot brush aside forgiveness or undermine the need for celebration, for these two actually reinforce whether we are a community or not.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.