From the Summer, 1993 issue of Touchstone

Is <title>Christian Community by Thomas S. Buchanan

Christian Community

“The sign of having reached perfection is this: if a man were to be condemned ten times a day to be burned alive for loving his neighbors, and yet not to be content with this.”
—Isaac the Syrian

Unlike the early days of Christianity, there are few local churches today that are true Christian communities. By community, I refer to an interaction of people that goes far beyond just Sunday morning worship services—where people really “dig in” and get involved in each others’ lives, forming deep and caring relationships, and where the individuals do not act like members of an exclusive club for the like-minded.

I was reminded of this recently when reading G. K. Chesterton’s musings on the clan: “The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies, groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique.”

To live in true Christian community is to give up our narrowness. A Christian community is artificial when it is composed of cliques of individuals from the same social or economic class, when everyone is there because of their “sameness” rather than their love for Christ.

This is not to say that a community should be tolerant of new heterodox ideas. Certainly, it should not. Political correctness should not be a concern. True Christian community is built on orthodoxy and held together by a love that transcends individual preferences and styles. And, of course, at its heart is a eucharistic table. Apart from the body and blood of Christ, it is merely a social club.

In the end, the test of a community’s strength lies in its children. If, when confronted with temptation from peers outside of the community, a child replies, “No, my people don’t do that,” then a Christian community has honestly lived up to its calling.

We need to think of ourselves as a people. Our Jewish friends have done a much better job then we have of maintaining a sense of community for this very reason. We are called to be a special people—a people of God who would lay down their lives for their brothers and sisters. It is easy for us to feel smug, thinking, “Yes, in a crisis, I could do that. I could lay down my life for even that person in my church,” without ever thinking about inviting him over for a meal because he isn’t really “our type.”

We need to learn how to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, with a love that goes beyond just a handshake on Sunday mornings. Until we are willing to do the work it takes to go beyond this, we will never know what Christian community should be.

“To live in true Christian community is to give up our narrowness.”

Thomas S. Buchanan is a member of the Orthodox Church and lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania, with his wife and three children. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of content!

subscription options

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access for only $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!

Transactions will be processed on the secure server of The Fellowship of St. James website, the publisher of Touchstone.

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the touchstone online archives

School's Out

29.5 — Sept/Oct 2016

School's Out

Where Not to Send Young Children by S. M. Hutchens

The Light of Everyman

27.5 — Sept/Oct 2014

The Light of Everyman

Benedict XVI's Regensburg Lecture, St. John's Proemium & Intercultural Understanding by Graeme Hunter

The Spy Who Turned Witness

28.3 — May/June 2015

The Spy Who Turned Witness

Whittaker Chambers's Lonely War Against Godless Collectivism by Hunter Baker

Higher Order Marriage

29.1 — Jan/Feb 2016

Higher-Order Marriage

David J. Theroux on Progressive Myths & Christianity's Deeper Revolution

The Little Jesus Who Would

29.2 — March/April 2016

The Little Jesus Who Would

Robert Hart on Cutting Christ Down to One Size Fits Whatever We Want

The Still Small God

29.6 — Nov/Dec 2016

The Still Small God

The Mustard Seed & the Wonders of His Kingdom by Anthony Esolen

Touchstone is published by

All content The Fellowship of St. James — 2017. All rights reserved.
Returns, refunds, and privacy policy.