If you live alone, whose feet will you wash?
(Warning: stream-of-consciousness post follows… just writing as I’m thinking).
The quote above is attributed to St. Basil, a fourth-century bishop, and one of the fathers of the communal monasticism of the Eastern church.
Basil was passionate about common life as the only place where people could truly grow to maturity in the faith. He taught that it is only in ordinary life with others that we have any chance of growing into persons and communities that are increasingly permeated with the values of the Gospel.
Without others, how do we grow in humility and patience, in solidarity and respect? Without others with whom we share life, how will we learn to embrace practical service to our neighbor? How do we learn to become a living body unless we have opportunity to serve and depend on one another in these small, everyday ways?
How shall one show compassion, if one is cut off from common life of the many? For, behold, the Lord Jesus girded himself and washed the feet of his disciples in person. Whose feet then will you wash? Who will you care for?
Basil’s questions are a deep challenge for those of us who live in single-family homes, drive alone in our cars from place to place, and spend much of our time watching TV. If we don’t actively resist it, our culture will push us toward increased isolation and independence, when the Gospel seems to want to push us toward increased communion with God and one another, and an interdependence that reflects the reconciliation and forgiveness the Gospel brings.
The big question is “What does this look like in 21st-century America?” And it’s not simply community for the sake of community (as Bonhoeffer warns us against in Life Together), but a community shaped by the Gospel, created by the Gospel, revolving around the Gospel. This interweaving of interdependent community and corporate worship practices that keep us centered on Jesus lies at the heart of what we’re trying to cultivate in the church we’re planting.
We want it to be more than just a religious meeting once a week, but also more than just a bunch of friends who like hanging out. We’re praying and working to become an embodied witness to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, a visible demonstration of the beauty and joy of living under the the kingship of Jesus.