“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”
– G. K. Chesterton
Chesterton had a flair for the dramatic phrase and the unsettling angle. He may have overstated the case, but he surfaced a question worth asking by Christians and non-Christians alike. What might it look like when a Christian community pursued the Christian ideal? What's the ideal anyway? What could those community habits and priorities look like? And would it really be difficult?
A community in pursuit of that ideal would live as if all of life mattered to God and other people. They'd live a Godward life that's pleasing to God and a blessing to culture (verses 1-2). They'd offer their individual gifts and skills and insights in service to one another (verses 3-8). Their habits and life-rhythms would demonstrate practical dedication to the well-being of everyone in their community (verses 9-13). And their everyday interactions with people outside of their faith-fellowship would be humble, patient, and peaceable with everyone--friend or foe, stranger or kin, high or low, hard or frail, rich or poor (verse 14-21; click the link if you want to hear the song that inspired most of that line--props to David Crowder and friends).
Would it really be difficult? Well, that depends on what counts as “difficult.” If it means “hard on my ego,” “challenging to my habits of self-absorption,” “disruptive to me-first inclinations”—well, then yes, pursuing the ideal feels hard. But it's also good—like the hard work of getting in shape feels good. Like the tired-after-helping-someone feels good. Like a hard-won breakthrough into freedom feels good. Some difficulties are worth pressing through, like becoming a person who never pays back evil for evil, but learns creative ways to overcome evil with good. And becoming that kind of person is part of why the Christian ideal is worth trying, and its difficulties worth risking. Especially if you’re not risking the journey alone. That's a bit of what we're about at Crossroads Church.