We’re all in this together! The Christian life is not a solitary one. We were created to be in relationship with God and each other. Jesus was very clear about this In his reply to the question, “What is the greatest commandment?” He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:34 – 40). As far as Jesus is concerned, we are all in this together and therefore must learn not only to get along with one another but also find ways to love each other in all situations.
Community is where life happens. There is no life in a silo! Life was designed by God to be interactive. Although some have commented that life would be easier if it were not for other people, it was not designed to be a singular existence. We need each other! God designed the human experience to be dependent on him and each other. We were each designed for a purpose and equipped differently with unique gifts and talents for that purpose (Romans 12). It is in community that God uses each of us to work out his plan of reconciliation. We can’t do it alone and were never intended to do so.
Every community has both positive and negative aspects. For some it provides a safe environment to learn, grow, and play. When community doesn’t function as Jesus intended, it can become a place full of hurt, sorrow and disappointments. Family, friends, acquaintances and others we live and come in contact with provide an array of opportunities to learn and practice our Christian faith. We need people in our lives who will teach and model a deep, maturing faith along with those who have no faith or are just beginning the journey of faith so we can see and understand the difference. Everyone – regardless of where they are on the journey, has a purpose.
Jesus and his disciples modeled community. They loved each other and interacted with the entire community. Jesus loved and taught his disciples to love those who considered themselves religious as well as those who were considered the worst sinners. Loving all and the complete lack of societal barriers were as foreign to the Jews in Jesus’ day as it is to us today. Jesus knew that we would struggle with each other and some would be more difficult to love than others. This is why he gave such explicit directions about handling conflict between believers in Matthew 18.
Christian community has a common cause – pleasing God. In Christ, we are all in this together, and we demonstrate it by displaying the radical love Jesus modeled when he walked among us. We love the unlovely, have yielding and forgiving hearts, and see value and purpose in every person we encounter. This type of community is inclusive and uplifting, speaks the truth in love, is non-judgmental, bears each other’s burdens and is supportive and caring. Following the example and directive of Jesus, we become people who demonstrate community, live a life of worship, grow to maturity and serve daily. We celebrate that we are all in this together, and God would not have it any other way.
Questions to ponder…
- How does the church demonstrate community that is similar to or different from your family?
- How has your experience with Christian community compared to the New Testament community? What role could you play in bringing our community to a deeper level?
- When you think back over the last week, how are you doing at loving others?
- What impact does unity (or disunity) have on the church? On you personally?
- Write in your journal and thank God for the blessings that Christian community has brought into your life.
- One practice of discernment is engaging your community with fresh eyes and asking God’s guidance in seeing the people who are not being seen. This week take some time to walk, drive or ride your bike through your community, asking God to show you new people and to notice new things you have driven by, perhaps, for years.
Almighty God, you have created all people and all of creation. We give you thanks for this gift we’re invited to engage with hope, joy and love as your disciples. Open our hearts and our eyes to see our communities as you would have us to see them. Help us to find courage to sit and hear others when so often we want to be heard first. You are good and you are gracious, O God. Let us see all people as children of you, who created us all. It is in the name Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.