Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love. Downers Grover, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010.
James Bryan Smith’s The Good and Beautiful Community is the third and final installment in his Apprentice Series, which, as Smith writes, “is designed to help people in their efforts to grow in Christlikeness” (9). The first two books focus on aligning “our thoughts about God . . . with Jesus” (The Good and Beautiful God) and performing a self-examination of our own souls (The Good and Beautiful Life). In The Good and Beautiful Community, Smith focuses on the logical next step: “loving our neighbor as ourselves” (10).
In his introduction, Smith offers a succinct summary of what he needs from those around him as he journeys to become an apprentice of Jesus:
I need to be reminded that as a follower of Jesus I am peculiar, in the best sense of that word. Peculiar, that is, to the world around me that does not live by the teachings of Jesus. My life is rooted in the eternal and strong kingdom of God; the roots of my life are in the future, safe and secure, which gives me the strength to live unselfishly, to strive for unity in the midst of diversity, to forgive even when it is not easy, to set my standards high, to live generously, to long to be worshiping in the house of the Lord and to be a witness of new life to a dying world. I need to be reminded and I need a community around me to help me remember who and whose I am, and what that means for my daily life (19).
While Smith specifically focuses on the church community in his book, the final sentence of this summary states well what each of our students may be looking for in our Christian schools: “a community around me to help me remember who and whose I am, and what that means for my daily life” (19). As the February issue of the CEJ reminded us, all of our students, including those wrestling with their own sexual identification, need a safe place to answer these essential questions.
Mark Brink teaches English and coaches tennis at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, MI. He also serves on the editorial board of the CEJ.