Over the course of my studies and reading I came across this word ‘Communitas’ which I assumed was just people being pretentious when they meant community!
Yet yesterday reading the fantastic book by Alan Hirsch I came across this phrase “Communitas, not to be confused with community” and he had a helpful glossary of terms in the back of the book, so I looked up this word, and its definition got my heart beating a little faster!
Hirsch talks about our desire for community as “huddle and cuddle” the idea that community is a place of belonging, sanctuary, comfort most of all safe. This community image is particularly visible over the Christmas season where we gather together with our nearest and dearest and then pull up the draw bridge and eat our own body weight in chocolate!
Yet communitas is not this word at all, rather is stems from the idea of young African tribesmen’s transition from childhood to warrior. The idea in more akin to a regiment in the army, a sports team or support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous -it’s a transformative community, transitioning us from sinful to fruitful and Christ-like. It is a community where ‘iron sharpens irons just as one person sharpens another”.
Yet communitas is also about context, friendships fostered together by necessity and survival, often our Church based relationships are superficial because we do not really need one another for our survival, we have largely removed all elements of risk or danger from our spiritual walks, and as such our relationships are not purified in the crucible of conflict and adversity. The Church of Jesus Christ is not meant to be somewhere safe and cossetted away from the world, but rather to engage in spiritual warfare, shaking the very “gates of hell” which Christ tells us “will not prevail against us” (Matthew 16.17).
Indeed, someone once said “if you want a quiet life the person you must steer away from is Jesus Christ!” -too often we try and sell Christianity as a pleasure cruise when in reality it is a battleship, and yet I believe that many of us long for more than just comfort and stability and a yearning for an adventure of faith, believing that the Christian life is so, so, much more than we have experienced and tasted and that God has more for us (so much more!).
Christians saying in the face of danger, risk and discomfort -bring it on!- as we stand shoulder with one another, us being vulnerable, needing other people and inviting them into be close to us and them doing likewise with us, a coming together for the same of the Kingdom -the greatest cause in human existence, advancing in our neighbourhood.
So, let’s learn to move from communities that are just safe and comfortable, to be communities of adventure, drawing out the Kingdom potential in one another, iron sharpening iron as we all more like Christ, and the world sees more of his glory, even if it is during times of pain and suffering.
So, let us learn to be communitas, rather than just community, in our dangerous adventure of faith.