Shakespeare’s Othello bellows:
“I have loved not wisely but too well.”
What he means is that his passions consumed him, and now he had destroyed what he loved. If you know the story, you will remember he had strangled his wife out of the mistaken fear that she had not been faithful to him.
“The people most in love with community are in danger of destroying community.”
In other words, there are people who have made such an ideal of “Christian Community” that they are easily dissatisfied with the real thing. In their dissatisfaction they grumble, causing others to become disaffected, which further fuels their sense that this real Christian community does not meet the measure of idealized Christian community. In many cases such people eventually withdraw themselves from fellowship with the visible Church. In the end they devoid themselves of what they say they most wanted. And in their wake they leave behind others with feelings of abandonment, rejection, confusion, anger, and more inclination toward disengagement. These are the effects of their having loved “not wisely but too well”. Like Othello they kill what they claim they love.
I know people like this…
It is easy to love people hypothetically, or to love hypothetical people. It is quite another thing to love real flesh and blood. Real people are flawed. The better we get to know others the more apparent those flaws can become. That’s why the old adage is true: Familiarity does breed contempt. But more important, what Peter tells us is also true:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4.8)
As I think about the communities of which I am part my hope is simply that, rather than idealizing Christian community, we continually recommit ourselves to enact and embody John’s encouragement:
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3.18)
Such love is founded upon the gospel. It is rooted in the shared experience of grace through common faith in the atoning work of Christ. It realizes that we will let each other down. It seeks reconciliation of wrongs and grievance. It models the laying down of our lives, and our preferences, for the joy of seeing others prosper and the oneness Jesus prays for us to be realized.