Monday 5th February 2024
Spending Lent with the Corinthians
In the previous reflections, I observed that Paul seems to have spent as much time looking at the spiritual health of communities as he did looking at the spiritual health of individuals. This is a challenge to us today, living as we do in a culture which places an emphasis on the individual rather than on the various communities which give so much meaning and purpose to our lives. Interestingly, in terms of church life, I think this focus on the individual tends to be found in its strongest form within Protestant churches, and there tends to be a greater recognition of communal identity and responsibility within the Roman Catholic Church.
When we speak of communities, there are of course many different types of community. As Christians, we might begin with a consideration of that community of fellow Christians which we call the Church – both the local congregation and the Church around the world. But there are other communities which are important in our lives. There is the community of the family- and as we all know, families come in all shapes and sizes, and they often change and evolve over the years. There is the community of those who live together in one place - those who live in the same street, village or town. There are communities constituted by people who share a particular interest or background. And there are the communities made up of people who share a common race, nationality or statehood.
There are also communities based on power, status and economic wealth.
Paul recognised the spiritual significance of most if not all of these different sorts of communities. Membership of a community often gives us a sense of identity and purpose, and usually some privileges – although we can expect responsibilities as well. Paul often writes about the joys which come with being a member of a Christian community. But he does not shy away from also talking about the responsibilities. Both sides of the coin have their roles to play in spiritual growth. We can certainly grow in our relationship with God through a deeper understanding of the spiritual privileges which we enjoy as members of the church. But we can also grow through a greater recognition of the responsibilities which come with church membership – responsibilities to fellow Christians and to the wider world. We will look at some of these responsibilities in the days ahead.