Community exists to the degree people are saying to one another, ‘What’s mine is yours.’ We’re not just talking about money at all. As a matter of fact, you can have communism without any community at all, right?
You can have a forced redistribution of wealth without any community. Community has to do first of all with what is in the heart. For example, in the church if somebody comes to me and says, ‘Do you know what? I don’t like the way in which you are treating your children.’ What if I say, ‘That’s none of your business?’ I have no concept then of community, no concept of what the Bible says the church is. I’m a radical, American individualist, but I have no idea about this, because you see, my sins are your business.
The Bible says, ‘… confess your sins to one another …’ ‘Bear one another’s burdens …’ That means we don’t just share our bucks, though we do. We share our joys. We share our mistakes. We share our sorrows. Now this can be done in a very icky way, and you can very artificially press this kind of community on people. It grows, and it has to grow in an organic, natural way, but I tell you, we in America are absolutely against this. In his book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah says the one thing Americans hold dear is the idea I am not accountable to anybody but myself for the meeting of my own needs.
That, my friends, is worldliness. I know many churches have said what worldliness means is, ‘We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with girls who do.’ That’s worldliness. My friends, that’s not worldliness. Worldliness is saying, ‘I don’t want to be accountable to anybody.’ The only thing that can really create community is the presence of God. I saw The Abyss the other night. It was pretty good. I’m just a frustrated film critic, so I won’t say anything about the movie.
That movie is a typical adventure movie in that you have a bunch of people who, for one reason or another, don’t like each other, but because they go through the same incredible experience that sets them apart from everybody else in the world, by the end they are lifelong pals. It’s like The Dirty Dozen. They all hated each other, but then they got on this great mission in the end. It had male bonding stuff. Oh, how great it is. Any two people, no matter how different they are in every other way, who through Jesus Christ have experienced the presence of God, there is community there.
The relationship between two Christians outweighs any other relationship you have on the basis of your race, on the basis of your gender, or on the basis of your social status. You are a Christian first and you’re white second. You’re a Christian first and you’re black second. You’re a Christian first and you’re wealthy or poor second. You’re a Christian first and you’re an American second. Do you see what I’m saying? Community can only be based on the presence of God.
- Tim Keller
Words found in Tim Keller’s 1989 Sermon, “Signs of the King”