I believe that community itself is a prudential means of grace. Our Creator lives in a constant state of life-giving community, thriving through an inseparable bond between Father, Son, and Spirit. Our Creator made us in the Creator’s image, so we, ourselves, long for the same kind of community connection, and it is the prayer of the Redeemer that we experience that kind of community with each other and with the Creator. Through learning to love each other in communities, we live into our nature as the reflection of the image of God, fulfilling the desire of God, which draws us closer to God.

If community—a group of people gathered together under some unifying principle or for some particular purpose—can in fact be a means of grace, one must ask whether it is always a means of grace or whether ot is potentially a means of grace. For me, this question revolves around Wesley’s question of intent—do the members of the community intend to grow in love with each other?

It seems obvious that some particular communities are not means of grace—dog fighting clubs come to mind—so, barring groups gathered around evil intent, I would propose that every other community has the potential to be a means of grace. Recognizing that the potential is realized through the intent and responsiveness of the group, particularly in the light of Matthew 18:20—”For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them”—it becomes clear that the key is “in my name.” Is the community gathered in the name or Christ, or are they willing to consider and acknowledge the presence of Christ among them? If the answer is yes, or even maybe, God can use that community to pour grace into the lives of the participants.

The closing scenes of the musical Les Misérables  revolve around the death of the aged protagonist, Jean Valjean. Finally at peace after a lifelong struggle for mercy and justice, Valjean, with the spirits of Fantine and Eponine, whom he loved and each of whom helped shape Valjean into a figure of grace, reminds us of “the truth that once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God.”

This is community as a means of grace.

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