I'm a pastor's kid and went to private Christian school so I've heard a lot of sermons, chapel talks, devotions, biblical lectures, memorized a lot of verses, and somehow I don't ever remember hearing this verse until a year or so ago when I saw this Mary and Martha tea towel in my sister's home.
This verse struck me because in my heart of hearts I long for that type of community. God created us for this type of community and designed His church in such a way that community should be a natural phenomenon. Community should be one of the things that makes us different from the world around us. Because in this age of ultimate connectivity, where the world is at the same time larger and smaller than it's ever been, community is a difficult thing to find. Here in our little corner of the globe, busyness is a virtue right up there with "having it all together." Our Facebook/Pinterest world is one in which we can cultivate the perfect image online of everything being squeaky clean and just right. I know I have been guilty of trying to stage that perfect picture. When in actuality, the picture from another angle might tell a different story about our homes, our marriages, our parenting, and our work environments. Nobody wants to be a part of a community where it looks like everyone has it together because they know that they don't have it all together. The reality is in that type of community everyone is afraid of everyone else discovering that they are in actuality a mess. Authentic community can only happen with transparency and honesty, and that can only develop through relationships...and relationships take time and effort. Our world does not make it easy to live in community. You can be busy and involved in many different activities around lots of people all the time without ever having that true community.
I know only a few people who live in true community really well. And when I am around these people, I find myself wishing and longing all the more for what they have in trust, accountability, and support in each other. The amazing thing is that even though I don't get to be around those individuals very often, they are so welcoming, loving and inclusive that I feel like I am a part of their community within minutes of getting to see them again. That's the type of hospitality that is at the root of true community. That's what Peter is reminding us of in 1 Peter 4, "
It doesn't matter if the house is clean or if there's food in the fridge. It doesn't matter if the dishes are washed because if they aren't, let's do them together. I can't imagine that every house was perfectly decorated and spic-and-span clean in the early church. Or that the kids were always quiet and never fussed in the middle of the pastor teaching or a small group study. Or that every single meal that was shared was a seven course feast. Community is something that takes work, but not the kind of work we think. It's not dusting and scrubbing or making sure our families behave in a certain way...it's love. Love takes the time to create space in our busy modern life to think of others, to invite people over even when there are toothpaste spots on the bathroom mirror, and laundry piled up by the washer. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (John ) Love is what is supposed to make us different from the world. The love we show to each other is the love of Christ and THAT is where a non-believer's interest is piqued. "Those Christians are not perfect, but there's something about them...."
Perfection is not a spiritual discipline or something we should strive for in the least, but in fact keeps us from being able to develop true community. I'm talking to myself here... because sometimes I think we have to give ourselves a little grace in order to "become grace."