Every Christian is called to live in community as a member of the Church. Christ in his wisdom draws each disciple into that particular expression of community which will be the best means of his or her conversion. Our way of life in this religious community is one of many expressions of the common life in the Body of Christ. We can be confident that Christ has called us into our Society because he knows that the challenges and the gifts it offers are the very ones we need for the working out of our salvation.
The first challenge of community life is to accept whole-heartedly the authority of Christ to call whom he will. Our community is not formed by the natural attraction of like-minded people. We are given to one another by Christ and he calls us to accept one another as we are. By abiding in him we can unite in a mutual love that goes deeper than personal attraction. Mutual acceptance and love call us to value our differences of background, temperament, gifts, personality and style. Only when we recognize them as sources of vitality are we able to let go of competitiveness and jealousy. As we actively seek to grow, and discern which men are being called into our Society, we must ardently seek for signs that God desires to increase our diversity in culture and race.
We are also called to accept with compassion and humility the particular fragility, complexity and incompleteness of each brother. Our diversity and our brokenness mean that tensions and friction are inevitably woven into the fabric of everyday life. They are not to be regarded as signs of failure. Christ uses them for our conversion as we grow in mutual forbearance and learn to let go of the pride that drives us to control and reform our brothers on our own terms.
The Society’s dedication to the fourth gospel draws us to see reflected in it certain values which we especially take to heart as we live in community. In John’s gospel the community of disciples is portrayed as a circle of Christ’s friends, abiding in him in obedience and love, and depending on the Advocate who leads them together into the truth. In this portrait we recognize an implicit critique of the tendency for communities to harden into institutions, and for officialdom to replace the spontaneity of mutual service. Our faithfulness to our calling will be seen in the ways in which we fearlessly subject our life to hard questions in the light of the gospel, resist inertia and rigidity, minister to one another generously as equals, and stay open to the fresh inspiration of the Spirit.
Because community life provides so completely for all our basic needs we must rise to the challenge of making sure that our sense of personal responsibility stays strong. Community life is arduous, and not an escape from the toil of earning a living. It is essential that work is distributed in such a way that each brother shares in its demands to the full extent of his ability. We are called to maintain an ethos that stimulates each of us to learn new skills by which he can serve the brotherhood and develop his ministry to others.