Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a beautiful book ‘Life Together’ in 1938, during Hitler’s rise to power. It’s an acknowledged classic.
He has much to say about community – here’s the heart of it:
Christian community is not based on anything that we have in common from a human point of view. That is – it’s not to do with having similar backgrounds, or interests, or political views, or ethnicity, or social status, etc, etc.
All of the above are about our natural, human relationships, desires and ideals. These may well form the basis for political parties, clubs, and other activities, but the Christian community is not a common interest group. By contrast, Christian community comes into being simply because of our common faith in Jesus Christ.
Anything else that becomes a foundation for Christian community will eventually fail, as we discover that our imperfections and our differences outweigh what humanly draws us together.
The only genuine uniting force is that common faith in Jesus. We are one with each other only because we are all connected to Christ.
Because Christian community is founded solely on Jesus Christ, it is a spiritual, and not a human reality. In this it differs from all other communities. When the scriptures call something spiritual, it is talking about that which is created only by the Holy Spirit, who puts Jesus Christ into our hearts as Lord and Saviour.
Bonhoeffer, Life Together, page 18, slightly paraphrased.
So, when we look at our own Christian communities, we must keep this at the centre of our minds and hearts, to avoid some kind of visionary dreaming that would set us off looking for the perfect community through some other route.
And, when we look at our sisters and brothers in Christ, we remember that it is God who unites us in Christ. If we lose sight of that, we will end up judging one another by some other human standard, and lose what is a most precious gift, our life together in Christ.