Karl Barth said “I can edify myself only as I edify the community”. I love the quote for several reasons. I love that it presupposes we live in community and that the message that edification comes through putting others first. I must admit that at first I couldn’t think of any scripture to support it but then I thought of “look not only to your interests but to the interests of others”, “Jesus come not to be served but to serve”, and “ Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for another”. It goes hand in hand with the “no salvation outside the church” (extra Ecclesiam nulla salus) or to put it another way baptism is not a solitary act but baptism is an identification not only with Christ’s death and resurrection but his life. So we are baptized into Christ and into his body.
That’s why when I was baptized an important part of that was the vows that were spoken by me and the congregation to give and receive counsel. It was a covenant between the one being baptized and the body assembled for the baptism. As part of that baptism there was the taking of communion as my first act to affirm my entrance into that local expression of the body of Christ. So as a part of this community how do I edify my brothers and sisters and how often do I actually think about doing it? Maybe I should start a campaign, “Got Edification?”, “Have you edified someone today?”, or “Edify U, Edify Me”. Probably not but the need to build up, to encourage, to edify is very real and definitely needed.
Edifying the community is so selfless and counter intuitive. My question is do we value the community enough to be concerned about edifying it. Perhaps a better way to say it is what value do we place on community and how do we build it. Community is both wonderful and frightening. I liken it to Cheers “a place where everyone knows your name,” a place where they not only know your name but know your strengths, weaknesses, ticks, and all. Community implies a certain vulnerability, being known in this way can be risky but also wonderful. Weight must be placed on encouragement and not just correction or it can quickly become a Christian police state. It becomes a state where we police each others actions with the hope of moral conformity. The problem is twofold , one it can foster an atmosphere where it’s easy to be critical and judgmental where correction becomes punitive rather than restorative. This kills true community because who wants to be transparent in that environment, instead we will put up facades and everything will become very superficial. For honest transparency to happen there must be a commitment to cover and protect the exposed brother or sister. Is this not the nature of intercession, to stand in the gap, to cover, to take the blows meant for another? Granted this kind of community is much messier and risky than something less revealing but the opportunities for growth easily outweigh the risks. So we choose community and we edify.