Saturday, October 8, 2016

Made for Community

  If you pay attention at almost any social gathering, you will most likely notice two different kinds of ladies. The first is a super social, outgoing, smiley, and friendly woman. She is at the heart of much of the talking and laughing that is heard in the group. If there is a social gathering happening, she is most likely going to be present and probably be the last to leave.
  The second woman is not so easily noticed. She is quieter, may sit alone or with a very small group, and as soon as is polite to do so, you’ll see her heading for her vehicle.
  We know enough about personality types (I hope) to appreciate the strengths in both types of women and so might conclude that some people are just happiest being alone and others need people. This is actually incorrect. God has created each of us to need community! There is a large difference between being social and participating in community.
  The dictionary defines community as “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” The root word in community is “commune” and this word means “to share one's intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone or something), especially when the exchange is on a spiritual level.”
  God Himself is three parts and therefore He lives in community with Himself; He IS community. All three parts work in harmony both independently and together. Genesis 1:26 says “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” He created us to be like He is; to commune with each other. It is a deep part of what we were designed to be; it’s how we were wired.
  So if it’s a part of our nature, why is it so hard? Being open, vulnerable, and sharing thoughts and feelings feels frightening. One of the reasons it feels so challenging is that we mess it up. To be in community is to be in fellowship and, being the selfish people that we are, we often focus on ourselves; what we can use the people around us to get or do for us. Robert H. Thune and Will Walker, in their book “The Gospel Centred Community” describe it this way. “It’s the tendency to use people to meet your own needs first. It’s not hard to see how often we are self-focused, pursuing our own interests and protecting ourselves from people and relationships that will demand too much of us.” They use the examples of the times that we intentionally avoided someone who bothers us, say what people want to hear in order to avoid offending them, stop pursuing certain friends because they were no longer useful to us, or cling to bad or unhealthy relationships just to escape the feeling of being alone.

  We sin. We separate ourselves from the very God who sent His son to die to restore our communion with Him. Colossians 1:19-22 says “For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,” He sees our selfishness and pride and still chooses to forgive and restore us to community with Him.

We may feel like community is too hard. People hurt and disappoint us. They use us or don’t reach out to us when we feel we need it. Why should we make the effort? Why is it important for us to be involved in community? In a nutshell, here are 5 reasons being a part of community is so vital.

1. Support
  We all know the story of Moses and the battle between the children of Israel and the Amalekites. Joshua and the Israelites were doing the physical fighting as Moses stood on the top of a hill and held up the staff of the Lord. As the battle progressed and the day wore on, Moses became tired and his hand started to lower. As soon as his hand did so, the Israelites began to lose the war. When his hand went back up, they prevailed. So Aaron and Hur came alongside of Moses, brought him a rock to sit on, and then each one held up one of Moses’ arms until the sun went down and Israel won.
How does it feel when someone has helped with some canning, taken children so mom could have a break, or even something as simple as a word of encouragement? It helps! It lifts us up and makes us feel like we can keep pushing on a little bit further.

2. Encouragement
  Ephesians 4:9-12 is such a good illustration of what encouragement inside community can look like. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

3. Help us become more like Christ
  There are so many ways that people can help us become more like Christ. We can be mentored or be a mentor. It forces us to get in the Word and actively spend time with God. Remember the definition of “Commune”? “To share one's intimate thoughts or feelings with (someone or something), especially when the exchange is on a spiritual level.” When we share with others, the things that we learn become more deeply rooted in our own lives and seeds are spread into the lives of those around us.

Also, Proverbs 27:17 says “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Iron on iron produces friction and heat but it also makes both pieces of metal better able to do their jobs. Sometimes people “rub” us the wrong way but the results really depend on how we respond to them. When we see them as valuable pieces of the community God has placed us in, we can learn the lessons that God is trying to teach us through them.

4. Give us opportunities to serve
  It’s not all about me. When we just receive and never give back, we become “overfed” and lazy. The Bible commands us over and over how to serve each other.
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Gal. 5:13 “…through love, serve one another”
1 Peter 4:10 “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:”

5. We accomplish more together.
  In the story of Moses, Aaron and Hur, the three of them did an amazing thing. But without Joshua and the other Israelites fighting in the valley, they would just have been three men standing on a hill. When the community of Christ work towards a common goal in love and unity, amazing things happen!

  God has created us to be in communion with Him, our spouse and family, and the body of Christ. There are so many things to be gained by embracing this sense of community, if we just take courage and let ourselves enjoy what God has designed for us.

Sherry Peters
Beacon Bible Chapel