The clearest way to bear witness to the full extent of Christian love is to engage in close community life.

“We had a glorious mess that looks much more like God’s work in hindsight than it did in the moment.” -David Janzen

Today, after almost three years, I finally finished The Intentional Christian Community Handbook: For Idealists, Hypocrites, and Wannabe Disciples of Jesus, by David Janzen. It’s the fourth book I’ve read on the subject of Christian community, interrupted in the middle by Being Church, by John Alexander, and preceded by Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claiborne.

Someone who dreams of living with lots of people, sharing almost everything, and worshiping and eating together, might seem like an idealist. But one of the strongest lessons from each of these books is that Christian community is never ideal. At least not in any Utopian sense.

Rather, Christian community is a glorious mess.

The goal of community is not better living conditions; although that can happen, in some ways, community also forces you to sacrifice. The purpose of life together is to build character. To grow up into the fullness of the stature of the body of Christ. To discipline each other and bear each other’s burdens. And to bear witness to the world the extent of Christian love–love through the mess.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” -John 13:34, 35