Community Currency

CURRENCY2Long. long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was part of a religious assembly in which I learned some valuable lessons about community currency.

At the time I entered my season of discovery, I didn’t understand much about the economy of relationships.  I was not aware of how relational systems operated differently from one group to another.  And I didn’t know what influenced the functioning of those relationships.

Then something hit the fan. And I was enrolled in Relationship Economics 101.

I learned the importance of understanding the currency that is traded in a community. The two basic currencies are reputation and character.

When reputation is valued above all, it’s a reputation-based economy, and the community trades the currency of reputation. Pride–in all its forms–is the underlying influence in forming and sustaining a reputation-based economy. Whether our pride manifests as unapproachable arrogance or as timid insecurity, this system appeals to us because it offers us a sense of community validation.

When operating in a reputation-based economy, the goal is to save and accumulate currency by protecting and enhancing our own reputation within the community.  In this system, we are under constant temptation to hide anything that would tarnish our reputation, and showcase anything that would polish it.

Not only do we end up hiding all our dirty laundry behind the laundry room door, but we dress ourselves up in a showy wardrobe to impress others. The gold watch isn’t the genuine article, and the earrings are knock-offs. But as long as the community is complimenting our apparel, we’ll keep putting it on.

Some of us become shrewd enough to work the entire relationship network to our advantage. We can strategically deposit or withdraw from the reputation accounts of other community members in order to ensure that our own accounts are padded.

The tragedy is that, in a reputation-based community system, the currency that is valued and traded is counterfeit.There is no real value to it. Like Monopoly money, it only has value as long as you’re playing that game.

Character is the valued currency in a community that is influenced and shaped by humility. In a character-based economy, we don’t mask our faults; we expose them to the community. Instead of hiding our flaws, we bring our whole selves into the light of grace and truth. We each haul our own dirty laundry out into the open, and then, by the power of the Spirit, we wash it together.

Character is the currency of true community because the goal is not the enhancing of our reputations but the transformation of our characters. As God’s community, we cooperate with the Spirit of truth in His transforming work through honest, transparent and sincere relating–with God and with each other.

My character needs a lot of work. My guess is yours does, too. And it can be uncomfortable for us to be honest about ourselves.  But only by God’s grace working through transparent community will our characters be conformed to the image of Christ.