Is my Christian community distinctively Christian?

A question I challenge myself with is this: Is my Christian community distinctively Christian? Is it any different to, say, the local soccer club.

When I have put this question to other Christians I have often received a reflexive, sometimes defensive, response of “Of Course!” So I ask, “How?” Now there’s a pause. “Well, it’s because we love one another” is a frequent reply. “But do we really love one another more than others?” I ask. “Is your experience of Christian community so distinctive that it genuinely stands out from other social experiences? Are your non-Christian social networks so much less loving towards one another in comparison.” And I ask this with scepticism because, honestly, mine is not. Sometimes the experience has been wonderful, sometimes less so, but even when it’s been the former rather than the latter, rarely has it been that exceptional. “Well, they gossip less!” is an answer I sometimes get at that point. And so I ask: Is that the answer to what makes Christian community distinctively Christian?

Having had a reasonable amount of experience with other religions I have to say, I am not convinced that Buddhist, Muslim, Pagan, Secular or Hindu communities are so much behind in loving their families and friends. In fact, in some instances I have found them more so. But at this point I am reminded of the words of Jesus:

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:46-47)

Without minimising the importance of the “one another” sayings in the letters of the New Testament, what Jesus is clearly indicating here is that there is much more to Christian community than just loving one another.


One thought on “Is my Christian community distinctively Christian?

  1. Yes, Matt, I agree that there IS more than loving ONE ANOTHER… part of the “more” is loving THE OTHER… the one who is not one of the “one another”… i.e. the TRUE “other”… the one who does not fit into the cosy definition of “the church family”. Jesus also talked about loving the enemy and the little ones, the poor, the imprisoned etc.
    I have to be honest in my experience of several decades of so-called church community in various forms, I am now the most peaceful in spirit, and yet also most passionate for Jesus’ reign to be materialised amongst all of us on this planet. However, I am not participating in a “local” church because I haven’t found one that wants me. I have found my kindred spirits and comrades, equally motivated towards justice and peace-building, equally passionate about being part of the answer to the world’s waywardness to the point of dedicating their time and resources to that end… but I have found them outside the walls of the “traditional” expressions of church… outside the “Sunday” cycle.
    For me, “distinctively” Christian means both individuals and the organisations they inhabit/comprise continually and distinctively discovering and being transformed by the life of the Christ of the Gospels, not being misled by a false image of Christ that has evolved over time. Christ’s message and person needs to be freshly encountered by each person and by each generation. Unfortunately, much of contemporary church life and practise leaves a lot to be desired in that department, due to compromise with popular culture, besides carrying unhelpful theological baggage from the past.
    Sure, not all tradition is garbage… some of its treasures are very helpful and life-affirming. There is mixture and it is a worthwhile quest to sift out the un-Christlike teachings and practises from the Christlike. That could take a lifetime in community to achieve. Not enough people in today’s instant-gratification society have the time or energy to invest into that, or each other, for that matter.
    My prayer is that we repent and get back on the distinctly Christian pathway ASAP.


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