Community is a very popular term today, it is a fad, it is a word we use for any sort of gathering, and like most terms, ideas, or dreams that become fads, and can be used to tag about anything, it has lost its gravity, its weight, its meaning.
The truth is, we all long for community. We do. We all long to be deeply known, loved and accepted for who we truly are, while at the same time contributing our lives to something beyond us. But this is not how we function in the west. We are ‘doers’. We want to get it done, get it off the “to-do” list. Then if something, like community, costs us in the way of pride, transparency, or perceived status, we quickly strip it of its value and depth, cheaply quantify it and begin to manufacture pseudo-communities in order for us to ‘feel’ like we are in community without the cost of community. And as a culture we will go to great financial cost to make us ‘feel’ like we are in community, in order to avoid the personal, emotional, or security cost. This is not the place to expound on that, but just for a moment think of some of the sales pitches, we buy into, “…if you buy [you feel in the blank] then you will be part of this group, family, community…” Heck, if you buy a Chevrolet, you will receive a letter about three weeks after your purchase, informing you that you are now part of the “Chevrolet Family.” That’s not family, I can’t depend on these people when times are bad, in fact, if hard times come my way, and I loose my job, and I can’t pay my bills, then all of the sudden, that family, is going to take away my car… that’s not family. Think of facebook, most subdivisions, Starbucks…what are these things? They are the illusions of community without the personal cost of real community. In fact, we have exchanged the cost of real gospel community to surround ourselves with people who are just like us, thus validating the self-seeking, self-promotion pursuits I have in my life.
But according to scripture, this is not true community. The truth is, when we live in true community, we become a parable of God’s love to the world around us. In fact, throughout scripture, God seems to be very intentional about the purpose of community, and that purpose is much larger than the nice warm feeling of being accepted. From the very beginning of time, community has been the tool for the movement of God. From God himself (three-in-one), Adam and Eve, tribes of Israel, Jesus and the twelve, and then the church. So, I suggest, if you desire to do anything with any significance in life, you may need to, ditch the idea of the one-man-army, and surround yourself with some people, who will love you enough to get in your junk, and still love and unconditionally accept you for who you are and who you are not. Until then, you will be blinded by the deception of self. Often times, this is really hard to understand, especially in our culture, when idolizing or exalting a ‘single person’ as ‘the man’ is second nature, we do this in the secular world and in the church. However, if God the creator of all things, the one in which nothing is impossible for, chooses to move his will forward through community, then it would only make sense that us finite, mortal beings would have to work through the bonds of community.
So, why does God work through community, instead of lone-rangers? There are several reasons, but I think those reasons can be collapsed down into the following four:
- God chooses to work through community to rescue and comfort the oppressed, marginalized, and abandoned.
- God chooses to work through community in healing our brokenness and pain.
- God chooses to work through community in transforming us into the image of His son, Jesus.
- God chooses to work through community to reveal his love to the world.
In light of this, here’s what we have realized:
- In order to be the type of community that is a parable of God’s love to the world around us, we have to fight for it, because everything in us, wants our friends, to be a parable of our glory.
- We have to be intentional, because it is natural for us to form our lives in a way that is completely inward focused.
- We have to be submissive to the work of the Holy Spirit in and among “US” as opposed to His ‘work’ through me telling others what to do.
- We have to reorient our lives for the good of the community, which goes against the flesh (my desire to be oriented around the good of me).