The Common Good
January 2014

From the Archives: January 1988

by Murphy Davis | January 2014

The Cost of Community

THERE ARE DAYS, to tell the truth, that you just have to wonder if it’s worth it to try to live in community. It’s sort of like marriage and family life: It’s a great idea, but the reality requires more blood, sweat, and tears than anybody ever told you about ahead of time. And sometimes you just wonder.

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You stir a soup pot, and it seems there are always more hungry people at the door. You open the shower line, but more hot, sweaty, dirty bodies appear the minute you’ve finished. You visit the prisoners, but for every visit there are five more unaddressed needs. You work to devise strategies to stop the death penalty, and the state just sets another execution date. You sit down to pray, but the cacophony of your thoughts and feelings won’t lie still long enough to get through a simple “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

We live together out of a commitment to the love that Christ gives us to share as a body, but sometimes it seems the best we can do is still to fail each other. And sometimes we just wonder: Is it worth it? Wouldn’t it be better (and is that the same as easier?) just to give up? To go back to a more traditional lifestyle—one that’s not so weird or isolated or cut off from the mainstream culture? 

Murphy Davis was director of the Southern Prison Ministry and a member of the Open Door Community in Atlanta when this article appeared.

Image: Caring info-text graphic, mozakim /

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