I try (rather unsuccessfully at times) to limit the amount of television I watch. There are much more productive things to do with my time; there are better ways to grow my marriage and myself. But sometimes I get sucked in by compelling characters, good story-telling or just something that gives me a few laughs in a day.
A popular new-comer this year was Community. It's season finale airs tonight, so I admit I'm a bit late in talking about the show which is about an eclectic group of students at a community college who band together to form a study group for the Spanish class they find themselves taking together.
The show features a cynical ex-lawyer trying to get an authentic bachelor's degree to practice law again, a feminist atheist struggling with direction, a Muslim Palestinian-American pop-culture junkie, an evangelical African American single mother, a repressed Jewish former Adderall addict, a former high school athletic star Jehovah's Witness, and a racist and sexist retired business tycoon who belongs to a quasi-Buddhist cult (through which Chevy Chase make s a wonderful comeback in his career).
The group's only common bond is Spanish class. Their eccentricities and differences often lead to misunderstandings, heated arguments and hurt feelings, but they also have developed deeper friendships and even a greater love for each other. Though initially joining together over a need to do well in Spanish class, their community is formed as they learn to tolerate each other's differences, stand up for each other and even unselfishly make sacrifices for each other.
With such a mixed group, moral behavior isn't going to always be present, of course. But the group has reminded many in our culture of a need for something most of us have been missing out on: community. We all belong to communities of various natures, but we seldom experience true community. We need relationships that build us up, take us out of our comfort zones, love us and accept us.
Donald Miller reminds us that we need to be intentional about creating this relationships. We're probably not going to end up in a study group that facilitates the relationships we need. Our friendships must be intentional (they always are on some level as we decide who to invest in or not). And those relationships also require a commitment. We must decide to intentionally get together regularly for fellowship. We must be purposeful about building relationships up outside of group times. We must look beyond ourselves to the needs of others (hmmm, this is beginning to sound like the ideal church).
Interestingly, almost every person in the group on Community has been forced out or chosen to get out of the group for a time, but they always come back and are welcomed with open arms. Forgiveness and acceptance are always present. Indeed, the group comes to realize that they need each and every person in the group. Cheers reminded us years ago that "sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name." Community is reminding us that we have a deeper need beyond just being known. We need to feel accepted and connected.