When, we grow in love and wisdom the whole community benefits. When we refuse to grow, it means that
we are afraid to grow and this in turn prevents the community from growing. It is important to remember that
individuals are responsible for individual growth.
Often flight from a community can be traced to fear, the fear of having
relationships. Relationships can be messy, so we would rather go and save the
world instead of developing relationships with people.
To have deep meaningful relationships means that we need to become
vulnerable to one another. It means that we have to open ourselves, and this can be terrifying. It means
entrusting ourselves to others, and that is quite scary. Often this can be a
time of growth for the individual and the community as we become aware of our
weaknesses and our strengths. Nothing is hidden. This often leads to peace when we are
in touch with ourselves. When we strip ourselves naked it means that we have
given up power, the power over our secret self. This can be frightening.
We join communities for different reasons but the most important reason
is that we want to grow. However growth takes place because we are aware of our own limitations. I tend to over
commit myself, so I have learnt to delegate and I am teaching myself to say
NO. This stops me from occupying the lime light and this allows others to take the stage.
It means that one has to be aware of one’s limitations, and human
weaknesses like human energy, the forces of egoism, fear, aggression and
self-assertion. These can be barriers that can prevent people from growing and knowing each other. We need the Spirit of God to overcome these barriers, and in the process we are healed, and we further discover
ourselves. “To grow in love is to allow this spirit of Jesus to grow in us.
Growth takes on another dimension when we allow Jesus to penetrate us, to give
us new life and new energy.” (Vanier 1982:89) What is important to remember, is
that growth comes from God, who leads and directs our lives. God frees us from
the human energy that can entrap us.
Vanier says, “To reach maturity in love, to carry the cross of
responsibility, we have to get beyond the enthusiasm, the utopias and the
naiveties of adolescence.” (Vanier 1982:89)
The Church or the ordinary family is not immune to people who cause divisions and disruptions. The early church which had experienced a sense of community began to break away.
Examples of Paul and Barnabas arguing, Peter and Paul disagreeing. The Church in Corinth began to have deep divisions. People left the community and in some cases left it divided. Judas one of the disciples lived with other others, his heart was full of evil intensions.
This led him to act in a treacherous way. His heart had been separated from
others. Jesus had warned him about this, but he continued on his chosen path of destruction.
He did not want to listen to Jesus. The question to ask; when is it permissible to send someone away?
Vanier states, “These people, whose hearts are filled with jealousy, are often extremely intelligent, with a considerable ability to seize and exploit failings in legitimate authority or the community’s life. So they can appear clairvoyant, to have an ability to redress injustice and save the situation.”(Vanier 1982: 82)
These individuals have the ability to create havoc, sweet talkers, but
leave an after test in the mouth. These individuals because of these abilities can appear as people who are
community builders but ultimately sapping authority and undermining it is the
ultimate goal. Obviously it is important to let then go from the community. Jesus our master is clear when he says,
“If your brother sins against you go and tell him this fault, between you and
him alone. If listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does to
listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed
by two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the
church: and if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a
Gentile and a tax-collector”(Matthew 18 vs. 15-17)
Venier states that only the elderly in the community can take
responsibility for letting go of a member. At the same time these elders must
take responsibility for failing to deal with the member of the community and
setting up dialogue or avenues for conciliation. Elders would take
responsibility for not having recognised the cracks from the start and acted. The
community is not exempt either it too takes responsibility for its failure to
engage with the brother or sister.
So sending someone away may sound easy on the surface but is shows a
community that has failed on several levels in terms of human
relationships. However if someone
is causing scandal among members of the community, these need to be cautioned
and chastised. If this failures then sending away from the community becomes
the only option. Jesus says,
“..Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be
better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be
drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18 vs.6-8) Finally people are not
sent away from the community because they are difficult. Only those who have cut
themselves off from the community should be sent away.
For these possess a really danger in causing scandal in a community and
sapping confidence from legitimate authority. Sadly such people deflect the
community from its goals.
A Commentary on Jean Vanier -Community and Growth, this book is worth reading as people set up a communities
Time is a great healer we are often told. Give it time. Wait a little while. Have patience. A community or individuals that live by this kind of wisdom are really blessed. One cannot be efficient with people. We need to pay the price of waiting. Often we are too quick to thrown in the towel. We often miss the blossoming of an individual or community if we are too impatient. Time allows for clarity, it allows for the dust to settle, it allows for understanding to take place. It is often true that individuals that we encounter who are difficult and stubborn can become true friends at the end if time is given to allow the relationship to develop. Seek first to understand and then to be understood says Stephen Covey. Often we want to be understood before we understand and this often leads to tensions. We should resist the speedy route of finding solutions. Stephen Covey says, fast is slow and slow is fast. If we are too quick to find solutions then what we often come up with lacks depth. We cannot gloss over challenges but we need to ask God our Heavenly Father to intervene in these difficult and often challening situations.
Growing towards love and understanding takes time. Learning to forgive others and oursleves takes time. Learning to say I am sorry, espeically when we get it terribly wrong takes courage and time. Learning to accept others takes time and ultimately accepting ourselves. What is important is not to give up or lose faith. When we give time to issues or people we are able to understand the other and the issues involved.
Fr. Barnabas Nqindi
My name is Barnabas Sibusiso Nqindi, rector of St Barnabas-Bluff. I enjoy a good debate and I love to see people grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ