Summary: We build community in the church by willingly turning a blind eye to one another’s faults.
How many of you have watched the television show, “Cheers”? For eleven seasons, from 1982 to 1993, Cheers was one of the highest-rated shows on television, and since 1993 its spinoff, Frasier, has also consistently been at the top of the ratings. What accounts for this popularity? Inspired writing, well-drawn characters, talented actors, all played a part. But I think there’s something more. I think that shows like Cheers, or Friends, or even ER or West Wing, tap into a deep human longing for community. They all show us people who care about each other, who accept one another in spite of their many failings and frailties and idiosyncrasies, people who share an emotional bond, who are committed to one another. Just listen to the theme songs:
Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you’ve got;
Taking a break from all your worries
Sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they’re always glad you came;
You want to be where you can see,
Our troubles are all the same;
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
I’ll be there for you (when the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you (like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you (’cause you’re there for me too)
Isn’t that what we all want? People who care about us? People who are glad when we show up? People who will support us and stand by us in the bad times, People who will accept us instead of criticizing and judging us? People we can just be ourselves around? I want that. I need that. And so do you. So do we all.
Well, I’ve got good news for you. Good news and bad news. The bad news is that Cheers, and Friends, and all the other TV versions of community, are pretend. They exist only on a Hollywod sound stage. People love those shows, they tune in very week by the millions, because they desperately want to be a part of that kind of community. They see something in those characters’ relationships with one another that they want. But it’s not real. The good news is that it can be real. The good news is that there is a place where that kind of community can and does exist. And that place is the church.
Or at least it should be. Let me put it another way. That’s the kind of place that the church should be, the kind of place the church can be, the kind of place that Jesus Christ intended His church to be. You and I know that too often, it’s just the opposite. We have to recognize that when many people think of an accepting, loving, supportive, place to be real, to just be themselves, they are more likely to think of an AA meeting than a church.
For the next five weeks, we’re going to be looking at what we can do to create and maintain community. How we can continue to become increasingly the kind of people who are unified in their love for one another and in their love for Christ. People who show their love for one another by the way they relate to one another – not just on Sunday morning, but every day of the week.