Appologies for the delay . . . Much much appologies. Insert plethora of regrets and excuses about how busy I can be. Le sigh, as my cover designer would say. Things didn’t happen the way I planned. And then things I didn’t plan, happened.
So continuing the discussion on community, hopefully, we’ve seen the first essential element of community. And that is family. Family as family, not in name only. And of course, under girding that familial bond is the fact that we share Avinu she’ba’shamayim (our Father in Heaven). As family we must be attached to each other, and how much more strongly since the bloodline that binds us bridges human to divine? The idea that it could be more easily broken than one of flesh is . . . unthinkable. Or it should be.
But what are the other elements? I don’t presume I know it all; we’re in this together. (ß that’s a community thought).
But, I also think we need to lighten up. Here we are looking for community as if it were the Ark of the Covenant, and if we could just get a hold of that staff from Indiana Jones we can figure out where it’s located. As if YHVH has hidden community from us. Do we suppose that He doesn’t want us to have it?
Probably one of the reasons community is hard to define from scripture is because the word doesn’t actually show up in scripture. So what word should we use? Let’s try congregation. In Ivri (Hebrew), congregation is edah, the feminine of ed. Which is interesting because the edah is a response to something else. What is edah? It is an assembly, but more. The pictographic meaning is “see the door.” What door? And why do you see it? Implied is that you come to the door, to meet someone. Where did Moshe stand to meet with YHVH? At the door of the tent. Where did the people wait for Moshe? At their tent doors. Where did Avraham meet with the three visitors? At the door of his tent. The tent door is the place of meeting.
So what kind of meetings do you have at tent doors? Important ones, not normal family ones. The husband and wife, or the children and parents would be in the tent, not at the door. The Kohen was inside the tent. In short, the tent door is less of an intimate setting . . . it’s not that the parties are strangers, but that the proceeding is public. And what is the purpose of public? So that we are witnesses, which is a literary definition of edah: a fixture that stands in witness to an event or story. And what are witnesses? They are a group that experienced a common story. So what is a Congregation? It is the gathering of witnesses of a common story. In fact, edah does not appear in scripture until instruction is given for the very first Pesach (Shemot 12:3).
Notice there is nothing ‘communal’ in the communistic sense of possession, but a common history. Three elements that we can glean from edah in scripture:
- Identity: The original Edah was made up of a family (of one Father) and of those that joined themselves to that family, a gathering that became a people (because of covenant with the Father, entered corporately), that becomes a nation (of one Torah), which requires submission (to Shoftim/judges based on Torah).
- Interdependence: This is really an expression of identity. If you identify with each other as being the same family, people, nation, that submits to common authority . . . then why would you entangle yourself with another nation’s system? Clearly we are in the world (but not of it) so it is reasonable/efficient/sensible not to avoid the world, but to prefer the Kingdom of Elohim. Notice how much of the torah has to do with dealing with other family and how little has to do with the foreigner/non-family. The shear amount of words tells us the norm was dealing with each other first and most often. And this is obvious because of the family model. My children run to me and to each other, long before they run to a stranger. Family naturally prefers family.
- Geography: As Interdependence is an expression of identity, so geography is an expression of interdependence. How can you be interdependent from a distance? I’ve heard one person insist that community can only work with 45 minutes between members (sadly, between my melting children I couldn’t press the argument further). I know some of the hurt behind that assertion, notwithstanding, I would say to them: “Cry me a river.”
I don’t mean that to be insensitive. But sometimes we need some cold water in the face. Has any of us been burned worse than Yeshua? Who can claim betrayal more than Him? Did He say to Peter, “I need 45 minutes between you and me.” Or did He sit down with fish and ask Peter to affirm His love? Which is strange, because the normal rationale of the betrayed is “I can’t trust them, anymore.” Who had more reason for distrust than Yeshua talking to a guy who betrayed Him three times, in public, minutes after Yeshua had warned him it was coming with his best friend and spiritual leader’s life on the line?
You’ve been burned? Get over it.
And I say that with some hypocrisy. I’ve been burned too, I’m not above it. But to myself I say: Get over it! I don’t have the luxury to throw myself a life-long pity party. Get off your butt and get back in the fight. Because that’s what this is about. You think it’s an accident that you got knocked down? No, this is a spiritual attack. You don’t get to just sit down because HaSatan gave you a bloody lip. You get up and you sock him right back. You take the fight to him. You don’t give up on the congregation—the only people in the world who share your story and your Father—you make your congregation stronger! “Conflict is the price we pay for greater intimacy”—said someone who’s name I can’t remember. That’s why you invite Peter back and prepare fish for him to eat, and ask him questions that prompt him to come back to you! When your house gets broken into, you don’t respond by bricking off all the doors and window. You go find the perp and you put the fear of God into him!
Sorry, if I got a little rambunctuos. I just don’t understand this, “I got hurt, so I quit” mentality. It makes me want to drop ‘colorful metaphors’ when I hear it. And really, I can’t think of a more appropriate use for so-called ‘profanity’ then when a godly person concedes territory to the enemy. And it doesn’t even make sense.
We know that everyone of us burns and spits in Elohim’s face daily. Why are we above being burned and spit on by our brothers and sisters? Whose brother has not offended him? If we had this same standard how could any of us stay faithful to our wife or husband? We are all burned! And you know what? That is the promise of scripture. Those who will live godly, will suffer persecution. If they hate him, they will hate us. We are sheep for the slaughter. We take on the likeness of his death. Does any of this ring a bell? Why do we assume that the only pain we will receive is from the world? That would be nice, but you aren’t baptized into a cake walk. You’re baptized into death.
And YHVH takes that death, by the blood of Yeshua, and redeems it into life. We have the power to triumph. How dare we deny it, when it is bought with precious blood! We owe it to our Father, and the Firstborn Son, to make the Edah work.
So what does community look like?
Because they share an identity the members prioritize each other. This is the most natural thing in the world. Just look at what we all intuitively know about family. There’s not a culture in the world that thinks (all things being equal) that you should be disloyal to a brother. Family is special the world over. You defend it. You long for the success of each member. You desire their good. You care about what’s going on in their lives. You want to share in there lives. Just think about the biology of a child inside the mother? Nature tells us to yearn and have our minds bent toward our family.
So in an edah, congregation, we have to see ourselves like that. To understand, all we have to do is look inside one family to know how it works in a larger family.
A disclaimer: that we’ll talk about more later. Some fear to think of others as family because again, we’ve been burned. They know among family they don’t have locked doors between each other. You share and share alike. That ‘communal’ thing creeps in. But that’s not the biblical view of family. Family does not mean no boundaries between the members: it means there is love that crosses the boundaries. Example: Esav had a birthright. Ya’akov had to take it. If everything was share and share alike, then there would have been nothing for Ya’akov to take. Yosef had a coat of many colors and was favored differently than his brothers, and the seeming message of that whole story is that they needed to get on board with the fact that he was favored above them. He had a coat and then he had authority that was not shared. When a man marries a woman, no one else in the family has a right to her. Family doesn’t mean there are no distinctions and boundaries. How can Elohim talk about not stealing, if in Isra’el (one family) everyone has a right to everyone else’s stuff? So we mustn’t be afraid that being family means that we become each other’s door mats.
Because they are interdependent the members must also be intermingled. I cannot have my brother depend on me, and then put myself in a place where I cannot meet his needs. 45 minutes between does not work. Can Elohim supernaturally teleport you to the place of need? Sure, can. He can also teleport you to work, but I don’t see you giving up your car. Or your work, because he can provide for you despite your lack of employment. A father can supernaturally be spiritually present with his children to raise them, but I don’t think any of us will argue that that excuses an absentee dad.
Again, look to the family. What parent would just accept their children not getting along. Boundaries, sure. Don’t go into so and so’s room without permission. But would they accept the children simply being apart? One walks into the room, the other walks out? No. You tell them to hug till they get over it. Why do you think YHVH commanded that all Isra’el had to come up to Yerushaliym and rejoice together? You had to rub elbows, and you weren’t allowed to hold a grudge. Can anyone make the case that: “Because I love you, I don’t want to be close to you.” That’s irrational on its face. Sure, specific events may make things different for a time, but your gravity is to come back together. If one sister gets hurt falling out of a treehouse, would you accept your son saying, “Well, I don’t like her. So I’ve been avoiding her, and so I wasn’t there to help.” You’d probably snap, “We’ll you’re going to get to like her for the next three months of her recovery, because you’re gonna camp out on her floor!”
See, this stuff isn’t complicated, we’ve just made up all these ideas that aren’t about love at all. They are about protecting us and our rights. If YHVH did that, then we’d all be in hell right now. He doesn’t give up. He doesn’t decide to be 45 minutes away. He stays. He goes with you, even when you build a golden calf. We need to have that kind of stick-to-each-otherness too.
Because they’re near in geography is really just the natural expression of the above. But the family lives in one house. So many of the fathers I meet, who want to raise up a generation of people who follow in the old paths, have a hard time even with a sleepover. Afraid (and I think too afraid) of what a child may be exposed to in another house. They demand and enforce family integrity, yet . . . they are usually also the first to cut off “another family.” Which only reveals the truth that they don’t see the other family as their own.
In the family, they stay close because they’re both staying close to the father and mother. They share resources, not without boundaries. Again, there are distinctions of relationship. Your three year old son will not have the same driving privileges as your sixteen year old. But you share a bathroom (mikveh!) and a kitchen and living space. You don’t think, “Well there’s enough food for mom and dad . . . I sure hope the kids can get something for themselves.” There’s this sense that, the members may not get the same share, but neither will the parents let them go without what they need to be whole and complete.
And because they share the same space, they also share the same time. I can’t just go and do whatever, I have to think about how the family will do while I’m away. Will the chores get done? Will the children be managable for one parent?
You can see this in the larger family, the Edah, when someone says, “How is John (who is 80) going to get to the store when it snows?” Or, “Evie is raising a child alone, how is she going to work? Will I let my sister’s son be raised by the ungodly? Or will I make space in my living space to be sure that she has a son who grows up in the fear and nurture of YHVH?”
It’s not complicated. We think about all of these things from that “what are the problems” perspective. YHVH has given us a mission, and we’re busy telling each other why it won’t work. I may not have gone to seminary, but I’m pretty sure the complaining about how impossible Elohim’s ways are leads to a lot of wilderness wandering, uniform diet, and the death of everyone over 20. And I’m over 20 now, so I vote for the option that doesn’t end with me dead.
Of course, I did talk about being sheep for the slaughter. So if YHVH wants me dead, He’s earned it. That was one of the best parts of my journey with Him was when I realized it was okay to be a complete failure and live a ‘miserable’ life, so long as I have come and have brought my wife and children closer. I may not see the promised land (in this life), but I will bring them to the border.
But if we just turn our perspective around and remember at the basic that Edah is family. Then we naturally understand family wants family to succeed. Family wants family to stay in the family. Family seeks family that wanders. Family doesn’t give up while it still draws breath.
We can’t quit. It’s not what our Father would do.