Our last reflection from Terry Cooper addresses what it means to be in a community of grace. Recall that Cooper is discussing the difference between judgmentalism and the capacity to make moral judgments. He wants Christians to avoid the former but retain the latter. In the closing chapters he talks about how we address judgmentalism in ourselves, and he recognizes the importance of being a part of a community of grace, because such a community allows us to come to terms with ourselves. Recall that Cooper has already indicated that one way to think about shame is to see it as judgmentalism turned inward.
Cooper says, “I do not think that any of us has the power to completely accept ourselves in isolation…. How does it help to ‘declare myself okay’ when it is my own testimony that is on trial in the first place?” (p. 121). There is a need, then, to be part of a community that “provides a healthy vision of growth and development” (p. 124). A community of grace is not biblical denial or minimization. Rather, it is a place that “helps us maintain a healthy awareness of our own struggles and shortcomings” (p. 125). A community of grace is a place that helps us through spiritual deserts or dark nights of the soul. It is a community that practices support and empathy.
He shares that it is unlikely we will completely eliminate our judgmentalism. We will likely still have harsh criticisms and snap judgments from time to time. But we can begin to make changes, and it is best to do so in community.
For reflection: Do you have this kind of community in place? How can you approximate this kind of community of grace in your own life? What do you see as the relationship between such a community and self-acceptance and moral judgments versus judgmentalism? In other words, how would you say a community of grace fits into the psychology of judgmentalism?