Another way of looking at it is the platitude beloved of preaching about church: ‘if you think you’ve found the perfect church, don’t join it.’
One of the foundations of the Christian faith is a pretty robust assessment of human beings, both positively and negatively.
We can be the most amazing of creatures, able to reach beyond ourselves and carry out wonderful acts of bravery, generosity and sacrifice. We all know ‘big’ stories of that. One of my favourite ‘little’ stories though happened in one of the roads on our estate – actually the road historically considered to be one of the worst in Chichester and a dumping ground for people who are evicted from elsewhere.
One of my friends from the community association lives there and has been doing things to change that road and create a sense of neighbourliness and community. A couple of Christmases ago, one lady fell down the stairs, carrying her newborn baby. Both ended up in hospital, the baby tragically now severely disabled. The residents on that road clubbed together and (thinking sensitively that a financial gift might look patronising) bought a load of Tesco vouchers for her to spend that Christmas. Maybe that doesn’t sound much, but actually it was huge.
We are made in the image of God, and as such we mirror God’s qualities.
And yet, we also know that we can be the most awful of creatures, capable of carrying out acts of atrocity and destruction that most of us find hard to comprehend and stomach. And on the small, we think and do harmful, hurtful and selfish things throughout our days.
We may be made in the image of God, but we also know that we are fallen creatures, capable of doing wrong as easily as doing right.
We are looking in this little series at what Christian faith foundations can offer into the mix of people trying to building sustainable local communities, and I think this double understanding of humanity gives us one such thing.
On the one hand, recognising the image of God in all people, we will not automatically judge and criticise but will give people the benefit of the doubt; will welcome all types of people into our communities, and will celebrate the goodness and generosity that so often is seen. On the other hand, recognising that no one yet is perfect, we won’t be surprised when THPTFTU rears its ugly head and people mess up and things go wrong. And when that happens we’ll be ready to offer hands of forgiveness.
I think this wonderful combination of realistic expectation will serve us well. Do you agree?