It sticks there like a burr doesn’t it?  That verse about how Pilate and Herod became friends because of Jesus:

12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.

friedrich-overbeck-pilate-and-herod-resolve-their-differences-and-pilate-hands-jesus-over-to-herod-s-jurisdiction

Why, how do you do sir?!

Brought together through a mutual mockery of Jesus.  Luke records it, almost as an afterthought, but it has such a ring of authenticity.  You can imagine Pilate and Herod sharing a goblet of wine some six months later reminiscing about old times:

“Hey remember that crazy Messiah guy we had crucified a while back?”

Yeah, what was his name?  Joses? No, wait, James.”

“Wasn’t it Jesus?”

That’s right, Jesus.  Remember how I sent him to you and you sent him straight back! I’d have killed to see the look on your face!”

“You did kill, remember. You killed him!”

“Boom!”  Hey I even got some of the battalion to pose for selfies with him, all dressed up in those fancy clothes you sent him back to me in.”

“Hehe, yeah, those have been circulating around MyGarrison too. Hey, whatever happened to that robe?  That was one of my favourites.”

“I’ll fish it out, have it dry cleaned. The wife and I will bring it round next time we’re in Jerusalem.”

“Nice. Come for dinner.  Herodias can organise some light entertainment, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more.”

“Done. Anyway, I hear some of his followers are still going on about him.  Might drag a few of them in and have them killed some day soon.”

“Goodo, let me know if you do, I’ll pop in for a laugh. Here have some of these figs, they’re the best in the region.”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

“Cheers!”

Ok, so it’s fanciful, but it reminds me that community is not the end goal of the gospel, but a byproduct of it. If church (ekklesia) means “gathering” then people can hate Jesus and love gathering.  Friendships and communities can be sustained by the most toxic of commonalities.

And another thing:  I’m pretty sure the friendship spawned by hatred of Jesus in no way reflects the friendships spawned by the worship of Jesus. You know, all the “love one another as I have loved you”; “forgive one another as God in Christ has forgiven you”; “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ” stuff.

After 40 years of being a Christian, I am still amazed by the sacrificial love shown by hundreds of Christians towards each other. And not because we are especially good at friendship compared to the Herods and Pilates of our day, but because Jesus is the friend of sinners, and can make sinners friends at a level way beyond the superficial.

Scratch the surface of toxic community and sadly, all too often,  superficial is all there is. It can’t negotiated the tough stuff, can deal with the rivalries that Jesus puts to death through his exemplary death.

A love and worship of Jesus drills community all the way down, long after the figs and wine have run out.