Thanks to Rob Martin for the link to this thought provoking sermon by Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church. It is long (almost 45 minutes) but it raises an interesting idea about the difference between what Christian community should be, and the types of community that we usually find.
Boyd’s claim is that most communities are based on a “parameter” way of thinking. If you have the correct belief(s) you are “in” the community, otherwise, you are not. You can be close, or even perfect, on most beliefs, but even one wrong choice is a deal-breaker and you are out. For some churches this is a view on baptism, or the age of the Earth, or predestination, or pacifism, or whatever. You may claim the name of Christ, but if you don’t do it right you really aren’t in the kingdom.
The Church, however, is supposed to be what Boyd calls a “centered” community. Christ is our center. There are some core beliefs, but anyone who is journeying toward Christ is accepted because they have the same center. We don’t judge them about where they are on their journey, we accept them as flawed humans, just like us, journeying to find a closer walk with God. He makes it clear near the end that he thinks that there needs to be a place for accountability and holding to standards, but he finds this to be appropriate only after building relationship with each other. And even then, only when invited to speak into each other, and with a spirit of humility and welcoming the other to speak into your life as well.
I like the general theme here, and think that doing Church this way sounds a lot like what we see modeled in Christ. He always accepted and forgave, but then used that relationship to call for a life-change away from sin. I haven’t processed this fully, and likely will listen to this again to make sure I’m not missing an important flaw in his argument. If anyone has any other feedback about this, especially something in Scripture that would help illuminate this further, please let me know! Yes, Rob, that includes you, but is not limited to you. 😉