For those who have not heard of him, Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian pastor and author of more than thirty books. I have read quite of few of them, and would recommend him as a Christian author. He is best know for his contemporary rendering of the Bible, The Message. This quote comes from his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, and I think it addresses well the reality of living together as a Christian community.
“But, of course, the fact that we are a family of faith does not mean we are one big happy family. The people we encounter as brothers and sisters in faith are not always nice people. They do not stop being sinners the moment they begin believing in Christ. They don’t suddenly metamorphose into brilliant conversationalists, exciting companions and glowing inspirations. Some of them are cranky, some of them are dull and others (if the truth must be spoken), a drag. But at the same time our Lord tells us that they are brothers and sisters in faith. If God is my Father, then this is my family.
So the question is not, ‘Am I going to be part of a community of faith?’ but ‘How am I going to live in this community of faith?’ God’s children do different things. Some run away and pretend the family doesn’t exist. Some move out and get an apartment of their own from which they return to make occasional visits, nearly always showing up for the parties and bringing a gift to show that they really do hold the others in fond regard. And some would never dream of leaving but cause others to dream it for them, for they are always criticizing what is served at meals, quarreling with the way the housekeeping is done and complaining that the others in the family are either ignoring or taking advantage of them. And some, determined to find out what God has in mind by placing them in this community called a church, learn how to function harmoniously and joyously, and develop the maturity that is able to share and exchange God’s grace with those who might otherwise be viewed as nuisances.”