I’ve been exploring the necessity of community in our life, and discussing some of the hurdles that get in the way of that community. I like to read biographies and I’ve been reading Johnny Cash: The Life. It’s an interesting story of the earliest days of rock n’ roll. One of the things Cash encountered in the earliest days of rock was the ugly realities in the dressing rooms after a concert. Cash observed the goings-on in Elvis’ dressing room, commenting to friends, “From the stage Elvis would point out which girls he wanted in his dressing room. I would watch up to nine girls go into his room after a show and he’d have sex with all of them.” This was at the very beginning of Elvis life in show biz. As we know, he continued to live in this atmosphere where no one ever told him “No.” In my opinion Elvis untimely death occurred in part because he lived in a “community” lacking the power of a healthy “No.” I was reminded of this same tragedy a few years ago when Michael Jackson died far too young. He also lived in this sub-human bubble where no one really ever told him “No.” Elvis and Jackson’s lives reveal the toxic effects of living a boundary-less and “no”-less lifestyle. The healthy community every human being needs must include being told “no” at times.
Here’s the ironic thing about all of this. Most church people I’ve met aren’t looking to live the lifestyle of the king of rock n’ roll. But if you sat with me in many pastoral conversations over the years, you would observe a lot of people who really want their faith community to be a place where no one ever loves them enough to present an appropriate “no.” It’s been amazing to watch people who say, “I really want to find a community of believers to belong to” immediately leave the community they say they want the instant a healthy boundary or a healthy “no” is placed into the conversation of their lives. There’s something in us American Christians that wants Elvis and Jackson’s definition of community more than we want a healthy community in which to grow and thrive. Next time someone loves you enough to set a boundary and tell you no, thank God that He’s put you in a place that’s trying to be a healthy community.