I have been thinking lately about an aspect of community that blows me away. In true community we learn to recognize our own strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of those around us. (This is part of what I define as the first component of community...”to know and be known”.)
Now here's the cool part... in Jesus' kind of community we overlook others' weaknesses instead of criticizing or being irritated by them. Next, we draw out their strengths (or in other words...we are encouragers); in doing this we don't just tell them their strengths as a kind of fake compliment. Instead we genuinely recognize and become thankful for their strengths, we are glad they are in our community and a part of our lives because of what it is they offer and bring to the table.
Okay, the next step is to recognize my own weaknesses, expose them rather than covering them up (opposite of what we do with others...with others we cover up their weaknesses but with ourselves we expose our weaknesses), and invite my community and God to love me in spite of them and help me overcome them so that they do the least amount of damage possible. Finally, I develop my strengths and joyfully use them to serve as a part of my community.
Now here is one more thought that has been amazing me lately. My strengths and my weaknesses are usually related. They are cousins...they are kind of revealers of one another. Or another way to say it is that, for every strength there is an equal and opposite weakness and for every weakness there is an equal and opposite strength. The people in our community that are annoyingly loud, are also the greatest gifts to us in their bold and aggressive proclamations. The people in our community that wrongly avoid conflict also positively help us keep the peace. The people who tend to be controlling and power hungry can also sometimes be those used by God to passionately call us and rally us around a cause and they step up to lead when others won't.
So when I find myself irritated by a person's overly bold aggressiveness (their weakness) I can choose to appreciate their ability to step out in faith (the strength that goes with their weakness).
Imagine a team where all our weaknesses were diminished and our strengths drawn out and then combined together. (That's why hockey teams have defence and offence. The idea is that the offence players are better at offence and taking risks and stepping up on the rush, but they are worse at defence. So they play a position that magnifies their strength and minimizes their weakness. If a fellow player ever gets mad at them for their lack of defence he/she needs to remember their great offence, be thankful and help cover for their lack of defence.)
I think this in large part is what it means to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. Check out these verses from Galatians in "The Message"
Gal. 5:25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
Gal. 6:1-10 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
4-5 Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.
6 Be very sure now, you who have been trained to a self-sufficient maturity, that you enter into a generous common life with those who have trained you, sharing all the good things that you have and experience.
7-8 Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
9-10 So let's not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don't give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.