(Today we continue our conversation about various spiritual disciplines. This week we focus on “community.”)
Have you noticed that throughout life you have desired to be part of a group. Starting as small children, if there is a group of children playing, another child, rather than being alone, will often attempt to join the group. Often, when someone is rejected by others they desire to be connected with, it can result in great pain and hurt. “Why is that?” “What is that draw to be connected to others?” “Why do we as humans continue to seek relationships with others?”
While there may be a number of answers given by psychologists and other professionals for the desire to connect with others and the hurt and pain that results from rejection, I believe the most fundamental reason is that it grows out of the way God has created us. I believe that God created us for community, to share in relationships with others, and I think the Bible clearly points this out.
This reality can be found clear back at the beginning of the Bible in the Book of Genesis. Notice what is recorded in the following passages from the creation account recorded in Genesis One, and see if you can identify a pattern regarding God’s creative actions (all references from ESV):
Gen. 1:4 (Day One – creation of the earth and of light)
And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
Gen. 1:10 (Day Three – separation of land and seas, and the creation of vegetation)
God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
Gen. 1:12 (Day Three – separation of land and seas, creation of vegetation)
The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Gen. 1:17-18 (Day Four – creation of sun, moon, and stars)
And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.
Gen. 1:21 (Day Five – creation of sea life and birds)
So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Gen. 1:25 (Day Six – creation of animal life and of mankind)
And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Gen. 1:31 (End of Day Six – God reflects upon all He has made)
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Did you notice the pattern, the phrase that was repeated several times? That phrase is “It was good.”
Now, notice what we find in the second chapter of Genesis, after God created Adam and placed him in the garden to care for it:
Gen. 2:18, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (NASB)
After multiple references to the fact that what God created was “good”, we find here in this verse the very first statement by God that something was “not good,” which was the fact that Adam was alone.
This naturally leads to the question, “Why was it not good for Adam to be alone?” “What was the problem?” I believe that we can find the answer earlier in Gen. 1:26, where God says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” (NASB)
Do you notice the pronouns that God uses, “Us” and “Our”?
God’s words in this verse reveal an important truth, God, in his foundational essence is a trinity (i.e. a “triunity”); thus the words, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Therefore, It is significant to remember that not even God Himself dwells in isolation, but in community.
In light of this reality, it is important for us to remember this one fundamental truth, God perpetually dwells in community, and we reach our highest potential in Him when we too dwell in community, both with Him and with other members of the body of Christ.
“Why is this, you might ask?” Because we are made in His image, and when we dwell in community we are becoming more like Him. We are living more in line with the image in which we were created.
It is also significant to remember, that in Gen. 2:18, when God says it is not good for Adam to be alone, that God is present with Adam. “So, in what sense is Adam alone?” It is clearly the fact that there is no other human companionship. This reveals the fact that our relationship with God and fellowship with Him does not completely fulfill the need for community which God intends for each one of us. We were not only created for fellowship with God, but for fellowship with one another. Yes, it is essential for us to be in relationship with God, to be sure, but he also created us with the need to experience unity and fellowship with one another.
We were made for community; it is part of our very nature and of God’s plan for our lives.
Perhaps nowhere is the importance of community seen more clearly than in the prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17:20-21. In this prayer Jesus is praying for all believers who would come to know him through the preaching of the Gospel, which would include those of us here today, and this is what he prayed, 20 “I do not pray only for these [the disciples], but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (personal translation)
Christ prayed for us, that we would be one with each other and one with Him. It is what He desires for each one of us, because he knows that without it we will never be able to experience the fullness of life he intends for us to enjoy.
I would invite you to pray the following prayer: Father, you have created me to live in community; community with you, and with others. Help me to understand the importance of community not only for myself, but for those around me. Help me to be someone who not only attempts to live in community, but who actively helps to promote and build community among others. Help me to be a community builder. As I do this, may I more truly reflect the very image in which I have been created, the image of the triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thank you Father, Amen.