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Affinity vs. Community

June 4, 2010

Affinity is when people come together for a single purpose, or a unified goal. A natural attraction or inherent agreement draws people together, and drives them forward toward connection or even joining together in a way where they resemble each other. Affinity can be strong and powerful, but it is limited because it depends on agreement. The problem is we are passing it off as community.

When we hang out with people who are just like us, who enjoy the things we like, who holds the same beliefs that I hold, then we are associating with those people we agree with and we are living in affinity. Affinity is good, but it is not what the Bible calls us to. Scripture calls us to community.

True community is when people who may be unlike each other and who may disagree on a lot of things are able to come together and share. They come together because they are focused and centered on one (or more) things. That purpose drives them, connects them, and draws them together. Christianity makes us Christ-centered and Gospel-centered. That is our single, number one focus. It is what draws us into relationship with others, gives us focus, gives us purpose, and connects us with others even if they are different from us.

True Christian community is not when we are spending time with those who are just like us, those who share our views and opinions, those who see life in the same way. True Christ-centered community is when we can gather with people who we do not have anything in common with, people we would never choose to be friends with on our own, but we share openly, authentically, and powerfully with each other. Despite different views on life, politics, and even on how church and faith should be lived out we can come together because we have a single purpose of living for Christ, loving Christ, and seeking to share his message with the world. I love Jesus, and they love Jesus. They were made by God and so was I. Together we can share that love, that connection, that commonality. Together we can learn from each other, serve and share together, and do life together. We can gather as a strange mix of diverse, collective, eclectic people who see and do life in many different ways, but who hold one thing as most important, Christ.

Over time our local churches have made choices to divide and associate by affinity. We have defined things that we believe should be shared in common which make it difficult to live out life every week with someone who has different beliefs. Unfortunately that drives us away from community, but we can still have community in a grander sense. We can choose to walk in partnership and grace with other churches, serve our community together, and love our neighbors together. For example I am serving with a group where at least a dozen churches are coming together to help plan an event that numerous churches will participate in which will serve our town. We are walking in community together. When we gather we stay focused about why we come together so that any differences become small in light of why we really have come together.

So, the next time you gather with your church, bible study, community group, book club, service group, sports team, planning committee, etc. take a look around. Are you a group of people sharing by affinity, or are you really a community?

Jesus gave us a great example of community. He did not pick those that people would expect, such as the powerful, the leaders, and the famous. He picked the a group of unknown, broken, hard-hearted, dense, uneducated, stubborn, opinionated, clueless people. He picked people who needed each other, that wanted more than they had, who believed that dreams were possible. He picked the underdogs, the nobodies, the lost, the lonely, and the lame.

I might actually fit into that group by affinity too, but I choose community where I can share with those who eat, think, act, speak, and believe in ways that are different from my ways.

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