April 25, 2007 Matthew

Imagined Communities and the One Real Community

A book entitled “Imagined Communities” by Benedict Anderson describes the idea that typical human communities are really only imagined ‘entities’ in which people “will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them or ever hear of them, yet in the mind of each lives the image of their communion.”

We can be thankful that as the body of Christ we are certain that we don’t live in any such ‘imagined community’. An authentic communion with each member in the Body is proved real and true because of the Spirit of God which inhabits us as “temples of the Holy Spirit”. This is why we need each other and cannot say hand to foot, “I don’t need you”. This is why we must make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Let us partake of the one bread for we are all of the one body!
This is also often used by God as a witness to the ‘imagined communities’ of the world in that when we plant ourselves as families or teams among the unreached, we present, by God’s grace, the testimony of a true common and living Spirit within us that the world has not seen nor heard of. It is then that the power and love of the Holy Spirit can be seen and witnessed.

It behooves us therefore to not accuse or judge our brothers or sisters for then we are truly judging ourselves. If you are angry, do not let the sun go down on your anger lest you become bitter toward your own. Strive to make amends with any brother who does not take company with your ideas or convictions but because he is truly your own. Never neglect to help your brother or sister in any way you are able to as you are helping your own—in fact you are giving to Jesus which is a truly honorable thing.

Our obligations as a real living community and not an imagined one are great. In truth, we cannot make such a community work on our own, otherwise it would be destroyed because of our fallen nature—even now we are constantly battling this dilemma amongst ourselves. Just look at all the friction in the church! It calls rather for the redemptive working of the power of God’s spirit to make it work. A community is a pure thing. And what is impure cannot bring forth what is pure. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing’. I like to paraphrase that saying like so: ‘apart from Jesus we can do nothing good.” Without Jesus all we can do is iniquity. Our community as the body of Christ is the true and everlasting community. Just look at the vast amount of text written by the apostles on this and you can see how important it is! So do whatever it takes…

“…bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit…” (Eph 4:2-4)

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:13-16)

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