We are not made to be alone.  In the biblical account society begins with marriage, a man and a woman who create a family.  We are made to be born into and nurtured by a family.  Families become clans; clans become tribes; and eventually we get beyond bloodlines and connect by common interest or shared purpose.  We make life better for all of us by working together, whether by cooperation or friendly competition, to further goodness.

Our delight in those within these profitable circles of cooperation is the love we call “friendship”.  The Greeks termed it philia, the highest of loves because it was beyond nature, not based in sex or family connection.

Our knee-jerk reaction to a closed group is negative.  We call it ‘elitist’ or ‘undemocratic’ – an evil.  A clique.  But Christianity survived Roman persecution by being a closed group.  The Church knew what it was and why it existed.  Likeminded friends committed to Christian truth supported each other and together plugged their ears against the siren-calls of the pagan world to conform.  Christians created a border to their bubble and chose marginalization, prison, and even death rather than compromise their identity and mission.  Let the world hate us; we love one another and follow Christ.

This stubborn refusal to cooperate was perceived and portrayed to society-at-large (the mob) both as a tawdry cult (“Goodness knows what those Christians are doing [or plotting!] behind closed doors!”) and a politically divisive dangerous secret society (“Why can’t those Christians just do what everyone else does and get along?”) and was criminalized.

Closed groups, cliques can be a bad thing.  They can also be a good thing.  A group with porous borders that uncritically takes in everyone may be welcoming enemies and may eventually so water down its own identity and purpose that it ceases to be a ‘group’ altogether.  It may even become the thing it once opposed.

Strong connections within a group (love, trust, care) enable it to retain its identity, purpose, and mission, and to withstand threats to those things.  Whether we face the persecution our forebears faced or not, strong connections to one another are not a luxury.  They are required to enable the Church to carry out the mission entrusted to it – to us – by Jesus Christ.

Borders must be drawn and protected.  Some must be kept (or put) outside.  But those that belong within the borders must be welcomed and nurtured or Christ’s mission toward the world through us will be hindered.




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