A Hold My Hand Community

What distinguishes Christianity from other religious practices is our belief in grace. The belief that the Grace of God is ours not because of what we do or say or because of who we are but because of who God is. 

Rabbi Hyam Maccoby says that in most traditions, faith is not about belief but about practice. It’s not about accepting certain irrefutable propositions, but about doing things that change you. Think about the five daily prayers of Muslims, the laws of Judaism, the meditation practices of Buddhists. If you behave in a certain way, you will be transformed.

Maccoby claims the laws of religion are not true because they conform to some metaphysical reality, but because they are life enhancing. They tell you how human nature functions, but you will not discover their truth unless you apply them to your life and put them into practice.

So as we look at Christian community, perhaps the key is not defining it or developing a theology of it, but putting it into practice. Because it is certainly the practice of community, rather than an accepted definition of community that is life enhancing for us all.

But what does it mean to “practice” community? I believe community is achieved in moving away from the cult of individuality and embracing relationships with others. But how do we, in a culture that celebrates the individual and the individual’s wants and needs, make community the priority over self-interest?

Perhaps we can take a cue from the pop group Hootie and the Blowfish. Their breakout 90s hit Hold My Hand provides a pretty good roadmap

I saw you standing there
Your head was down your eyes were red
No comb had touched your hair
I said get up and let me see you smile
Let’s take a walk together, walk the road awhile

Hold my hand.

When you’re holding someone’s hand, you can do some things that do not affect them—like nod your head or tap your feet. But if you want to move your arms or start to walk, it will cause them to move as well. By holding someone’s hand, we are reminded that what we do affects those around us. Our decisions extend beyond ourselves.

When we practice community, we live a Hold My Hand kind of existence. When we make living as a member of a community a priority over living as an individual, we never say “that’s not my problem” when we see someone hurting.

Hold my hand.

We never resent someone else’s joy because their joy is our joy.

Hold my hand.

We never walk away from someone who makes us uncomfortable.

Hold my hand.

But there’s more to the song, and there’s more to this practicing community. The song goes on to say:

See I was wasted, and I was wastin’ time
Till I thought about your problems…
…I don’t want to be a part of all those problems
But I got a hand for you.

What a concept. When your life is going nowhere, YOU should be the one to reach out to someone else in need.

Hold my hand.

When we practice community, when we extend our help to others, the life we save may very well be our own.

Some of us find it easier to reach out a hand for help. Others are much more willing to reach out a hand to help. True community means being willing to do both.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer is an online, inclusive and progressive Christian community. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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