We have become a fragile society. This is clearly seen in the arena of parenting. “Helicopter parents” guard their children from any and all hardship. This feeds a pervasive narcissism. Many children grow up thinking that they are the center of the universe. And when they encounter real life, they are ill prepared. But I find a similar fragility in many adults. They are easily offended. And when there is difficulty or struggle, they are disillusioned and inclined to give up.
Part of the problem is unrealistic expectations. We expect that our spouse, our doctor, or our school are going to meet all of our needs. And when they don’t we become terribly disillusioned. When it comes to the church, I believe we need to lower our expectations. Or perhaps more specifically, we need to alter our expectations. God has never intended to fulfill many of the expectations that we have for the church.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a faithful German pastor and theologian in Hitler’s Germany. Because of the many hardships that he experienced, he came to a rich understanding of Christian community. In his classic work, Life Together, he wrote, “Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”
There are some who love their idea of the church more than they love the actual church. They love the notion of the universal church (i.e. people who sit happily singing around a campfire). But they keep the actual church (i.e. real people with quirks and besetting sins) at a distance. We need to stop demanding that God fulfill our twisted desires and expectations. We need to stop being so fragile and learn to “bear with one another” (Ephesians 4:2).
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