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Summer Edition
Volume 98, Number 1

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Community: Living with Freaks

An excerpt from Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

In the spring of my year at Graceland . . . a friend and I traveled to Salem to hear Brennan Manning speak. Manning is a former Catholic priest and a wonderful writer who has struggled with alcoholism and speaks frankly about matters of Christian spirituality. . . .

He opened his talk with the story of Zacchaeus. Brennan talked about how an entire town, with their ridicule and hatred, could not keep the little man from oppressing them through the extravagant financial gains he made as a tax collector. Christ walked through town, Brennan said, and spotted the man. Christ told Zacchaeus that He would like to have a meal with him.

In the single conversation Christ had with Zacchaeus, Brennan reminded us, Jesus spoke affirmation and love, and the tax collector sold his

Jay McDermond, associate professor of Christian ministry and spirituality

“Essentially, what Miller suggests

about community is not new. All three theological traditions which influenced Messiah College’s foundation [Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan] have stressed the importance of community for ‘dealing’ with the crucial human flaw: self. What is unique about Miller is his fresh and quirky approach to communicating this idea.”

—Jay McDermond,

 associate professor of Christian

ministry and spirituality

possessions and made amends to those he had robbed. It was the affection of Christ, not the brutality of a town, that healed Zacchaeus.

Manning went on to speak of the great danger of a harsh word, the power of unlove to deteriorate a person’s heart and spirit, and how, as representatives of the grace and love of God, our communication should be seasoned with love and compassion.

While Manning was speaking, I was being shown myself, and I felt like God was asking me to change. I was being asked to walk away from the lies I believed about the world being about me. I had been communicating unlove to my housemates because I thought they were not cooperating with the meaning of life, that meaning being my desire and will and choice and comfort.

There was nothing fun about going home that night. I went with new eyes, seeing my housemates as people. For the first time I saw them as people, and I could sense God’s love for them. I had been living with God’s prized possessions, His children, the dear ones to Him, and had considered them a bother to this earth that was mine, this space and time that were mine.


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