Summary: The description of Community (neighborhood) Community, or Neighborhood, as I use the word today, is a segment within society that transcends self-interest and becomes intentionally intertwined collective of individuals that form a need-meeting, life-chang
It seems like while I was growing up, the words “neighbor” and “neighborhood” were pretty important. Mom and Dad would always talk about the other “kids in our neighborhood.” We’d have over friends, “from the neighborhood.” The church would get excited if a new family moved “into the neighborhood.” You’d bake cookies for the new addition to the “neighborhood.” You’d even hear some folks great a stranger, “Howdy, neighbor!”
The idea of being a neighbor was pretty important on TV too. Who can ever forget Fred Rogers in “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood?” Each episode began the exact same way: Mr. Rogers would come home singing, “Won’t you be my Neighbor?” as he changed into his trademark slippers and zipped up his cardigan, which by the way, was knit by his own mother.
And then of course, there is Bob McGrath, who popularized another of my childhood favorites: “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” On many a Sesame Street Episode, Bob would sing
Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
In your neighborhood?
Say, who are the people in your neighborhood?
The people that you meet each day
Today, I don’t hear the word “neighborhood” as much, do you?
• I been informed that I do not live in a neighborhood; I live in a development
• Others even in our development go further in their distancing from the concept of neighborhood. Instead, they say that I live in a “swim/tennis community.”
But community is a funny thing too. Just a quick search on Google turned up
• Webshots community
• Sony’s online entertainment community
• The Google Earth community
• Facebook, MySpace, and eHarmony promote relational community.
• Even eBay says that they are in the business of building community. “More than buying and selling, the electronic emporium is about posting messages on bulletin boards, discovering new friends, and launching relationships at the eBay Cafe. One user said, ‘eBay is bringing people together to do a lot more than trading goods. We are trading our hearts.’” (Leonard Sweet, “The Quest for Community” quoted in The Search to Belong, by Joseph Myers, on p. 31)
I am convinced that we have lost an understanding of the true meaning of neighborhood and society.
German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies distinguished between two types of human association: Gemeinschaft (usually translated as "community") and Gesellschaft ("society" or "association"). In his 1887 work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Tönnies argued that Gemeinschaft is perceived to be a tighter and more cohesive social entity, due to the presence of a "unity of will." He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of Gemeinschaft, but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in Gemeinschaft. Gesellschaft, on the other hand, is a group in which the individuals who make up that group are motivated to take part in the group purely by self-interest. He also proposed that in the real world, no group was either pure Gemeinschaft or pure Gesellschaft, but, rather, a mixture of the two. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community)
I want to focus on this idea today:
1. The description of Society. Society is an uncomfortable association of people who barely know each other, mashed together in an artificially created hodgepodge. It is driven by self-interest. It is shallow and/or accidental.
2. The description of Community (neighborhood) Community, or Neighborhood, as I use the word today, is a segment within society that transcends self-interest and becomes intentionally intertwined collective of individuals that form a need-meeting, life-changing, wound-healing organism. It purposeful, cohesive, and intentional.
Long before Tonnies began to explore the sociology of community, a religion scholar and a Jewish Rabbi had a discussion about such matters. However, their discussion did not begin with the sociological, it began with the spiritual. If Bridgeway Church can understand the spiritual and sociological implications of this Jewish Rabbi, then we will create a collective that will cause awe and wonder in the society that surrounds us.
Let’s eavesdrop on their conversation found in
Luke 10:25-37 (The Message)
25Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. "Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?"
26He answered, "What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?"
27He said, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself."
28"Good answer!" said Jesus. "Do it and you’ll live."
29Looking for a loophole, he asked, "And just how would you define ’neighbor’?"
30-32Jesus answered by telling a story. "There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.