"I think that, when I die, it might be some time until I know it."
Should we surround ourselves with like-minded people? The term that’s used in various academic circles to describe this practice is “homophily”: birds of a feather flock together. We see it lived out on social media sites like Facebook, where many people friend (and maintain friendships with) only those who support their worldview. Homophily has also become the defining feature of the church today. Is the practice of surrounding ourselves with people who make us feel comfortable and support every one of our beliefs what the church should be known for?
One of the core beliefs of Christianity is that people are “saved by grace, through faith” and that salvation is never through any actions that warrant it. As I mentioned in my first post, we don’t deserve forgiveness and that’s the beauty of grace. Most of us in the faith also believe that this grace will not only transform people (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2nd Corinthians 5:17) but will inevitably lead the person of faith to live out that faith through actions that reflect this transformed life.
But what are these works of faith? What should they look like? From my experience in the faith for the past 20 years, I am disappointed to say that many are content with the idea that works of faith equate us joining a community of believers, going to church, and hiding among the bubble of believers, demonstrating our faith by living up to the expectations of our community. I understand this impulse. It’s comforting to surround yourself with like-minded people who agree with all of your world views. However, such a desire runs counter to the life of Christ. Instead of finding fellowship with highly religious people on a daily basis, Christ surrounded himself with the outcasts, the sinners, and those on the margins of society.
So, in light of he ways that Christ lived his life, should “birds of a feather flock together”? In one regard, we do need the support of those in our lives who can encourage us and understand our life’s challenges in an intimate way. Christ, for example, found a community of followers in his disciples. (Who he chose as his disciples is really important in this context.) But an equally important group of people we should surround ourselves with are those who challenge our assumptions, who offer us a different view of the world, and those who are often ignored by the self-righteous.
I see the value of this every day as a university professor. One of the most transformative things about being physically in the classroom isn’t taking in a lecture from a “sage on the stage”; instead, I see transformations happen when students are surrounded by a diverse group of their peers and many of their assumptions made about life get confronted, challenged, and reevaluated. Christians can only benefit from this model and I pray the church begins to embrace it rather than see it as a threat.
Image: “Cloning Experiment” by orangeacid on Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/orangeacid/273899875/
“Calvin says that God takes an aesthetic pleasure in people. There’s no reason to imagine that God would choose to surround himself into infinite time with people whose only distinction is that they fail to transgress. King David, for example, was up to a lot of no good. To think that only faultless people are worthwhile seems like an incredible exclusion of almost everything of deep value in the human saga. Sometimes I can’t believe the narrowness that has been attributed to God in terms of what he would approve and disapprove.”
~Marilynne Robinson from The Paris Review
Hear more of Marilynne Robinson in The Mystery We Are
Photo by Trân Tú Nguyễn / Flickr, cc by-nc-sa 2.0