Recently a friend of mine came across a car accident. He was driving in the early morning and he saw the trail of a car go straight where the road curved. Beyond that lay the dreadful sight of a car smashed into a solid rock wall, its once smooth steel now folded like an accordion. Being trained in first aid, he hurried up to the silent vehicle to see if there was anything he could do.
The men's clothing and briefcases revealed they were businessmen, the make of car gave an indication of their success. There was no evidence of anything wrong, no alcohol, no drugs, nothing funny. The driver was grotesquely hidden behind the steering column which had obviously taken his life. The car's engine was in his lap. The passenger was still breathing, his face up against the windshield. The windshield was up against the rock wall. Multiple fractures gave little hope of recovery, but my friend did what he could while someone else who stopped went to call an ambulance. It seemed so long for the ambulance to come, and before it did the passenger died.
It was obvious they had both fallen asleep, and neither was able to warn the other of what was about to happen. If the passenger had lived, he would have spent months or even years on intensive life support systems. No amount of care could have brought him healing. From the moment of impact, his life merely lingered in him.
Somehow the two men failed to appreciate how tired they were. Such a contest between sheet metal and rock is never meant to take place. It is up to the driver to keep such a hopeless struggle, which has only the grimmest chances of survival, from taking place. Yet there is another, equally difficult contest that has been going on for generations in the modern world, with many ending up casualties or in their own peculiar form of intensive care. There are all kinds of rock walls in the world, but the biggest and deepest and highest of them all is encountered by those who attempt to live communally.
We may long for community, for that togetherness, harmony and fulfillment community represents to many. We may long for it as deeply as the sixties movement in America longed to get back to the garden, but the longing is not enough. What would we not give to be in the place where we are in harmony with the creation and the Creator? We no longer dwell in the garden, and we wish we did. How vivid that dream remains of a life of peace, a peace so complete it reaches and heals the human heart, removing the very causes of the strife which plagues mankind. To ever have any hope of achieving this we must realize that something happened that drove us out of the garden in the first place. There is still an angel standing there with a flaming sword who guards the entrance. We can’t get back there on our own power. If we could do that we would have remained there in the first place.
Forces greater than ours caused our expulsion from the garden of God, and it will only be forces greater than ours, greater than the things that drove us out, that will ever bring us back. Our longing or desire alone is not enough because the reality of who we are will outwit our great ideals. Beyond our noblest thoughts and bravest dreams there is something at work in us that militates against communal living. This thing is impassable, and the more energy that is put into getting beyond it, the greater the damage that finally occurs. It ends up in a deadly collision between our ideals and our human nature. It is just like hitting a rock wall at highway speeds. To deal with this barrier community either becomes self-destructive and eventually dissolves or it becomes very institutionalized and regimented.
Casting aside the restraints of conscience only results in a furious and short-lived attempt to prove that stable relationships and human happiness are not dependent upon guarding the inner peace a good conscience brings. The harm that comes from this can not be ignored for long, for a good conscience is the only way the deepest and innermost needs of human beings can be satisfied. Carefully screening out the problem people with trial living periods and written applications does not remove the causes of the strife and inner lack of worth experienced equally by those who live in community and those not allowed in. Step by step such a community becomes more regimented and rigid, ending up a long way from the vision of human freedom with which it began.
Neither way, nor any happy medium between, deals with the greatest problem to community: self. All these things — selfishness, self-centeredness, selfish ambition — cause a man to act out of coordination with His Creator. Even when we recognize the destructive force of self at work in us and see our need to change, there is still no way we can effect this change ourselves. Only our Creator can do this. First we have to be restored to a relationship with Him and then He can restore us.
There was a work that had to be done for us, by One greater and better than ourselves. Yahshua the Messiah was the only One who could do it. In Him was found the fulfillment of the sacrificial system the God of Israel gave His people so long ago. His death and resurrection on behalf of all mankind is still the foundation of the restoration of man. His voluntary sacrifice is the means of reconciliation between man and his Creator. It is the basis for us to receive the Spirit of our Maker, in order that His Spirit could begin a work in us, reshaping and recreating us and transforming us from living for ourselves into people who would lay down their lives for each other. This creative process can only take place in the community where the divine Spirit is active, brooding over His new creation, as He did over the first. This is the only way to get beyond the impassable barrier of selfishness, the only way.
Nor is it merely living in community that changes a person. Living in community might serve to show a person their true selfish condition. What actually changes a person is to meet the many demands of communal living by relying upon the divine Spirit within them, the Spirit that is recreating them from the inside out. So community trains a person, and community is also the result of such training. If the divine Spirit is not active, then the selfishness that will be active will either cause the community to fall apart, or deal with the demands of community living in an unnatural, forced way. In the later case, the patient may be kept alive, but it is only by artificial means, and no healing is taking place.
Love, which is laying down your life for your friends, is the visible fruit of the work of the divine Spirit. The many circumstances in community require that this kind of love would be worked into every part of a person's being in a practical way. It must saturate each one completely so that a restoration of the entire person would take place.
This kind of love, this self-sacrificing love, is of divine origin. It is the only means to make community happen. This kind of love is the only power to solve the many conflict situations between human beings and to break down any wall of separation. It is the only way to succeed and survive. Any other attempt to build community is bound to fall, no matter how hard we try to keep it up, because its most important ingredient is missing — relationships based on love. These relationships ultimately make a way through the wall of selfish human nature, a way for others to follow in. This is God's intention in forming His communities.