In preparation for this month’s theme of Community, I looked up the definition to solidify my position, and I came up wanting.
Community: a unified body of individuals; society at large; joint participation, common character, social activity, social state or condition. Blech.
So, I made up with my own definition.
- Carrying each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
- Bearing each others hurts, tears, pain (Romans 12:15)
- Rejoicing with each other without jealousy, resentment, or self-defeat (Romans 12:15)
- Spurring each other on to great work (Hebrews 10:24)
- Sharing what we have freely with each other/ meeting each other’s needs (Acts 2:44-45)
- Caring for each other (Philippians 2:4)
- Praying for each other (James 5:16)
- Forgiving each other (Ephesians 4:32)
- Loving each other (John 15:12)
True community reflects the heart of our Triune God. As we enter into communion with God, we grow in community with each other.
I have seen true community at work this week in several places. Yesterday, I saw it at my friend’s twin baby shower, where she was showered with love, as each person shared how she has blessed their lives in a personal way. Each testimony reflected themes of Heather’s life: her genuine love for each person she comes into contact with, her availability to serve and care for others, her faithfulness to share the gifts God has given her through singing, acting, writing, and speaking to bless countless others. She is the embodiment of the spirit of community, as she listens to the hearts of others and uses her gifts to draw people together and point them to the Father.
I saw community in my women’s bible study small group time. It was the first week as a facilitator that I did not complete most of my homework, leaving me helpless to lead the discussion. It became the richest and most beautiful time of sharing from each woman at the table that we have experienced in our eight weeks together. I left humbled and joy-filled at the glorious work God is doing in each other their lives.
I read about community in Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life. Her very life and ministry through her blog Momastery is a picture of community. As I read, I noticed how she thrived only when she reached out to others with her trademark candor and honesty, and from them received the love and strength she needed to continue living and writing openly. After a restorative time away from suburbia, she realized that she needed to return, that she needed to be with her friends, to live life in community again. Without her people, without her God, she cannot face each day; she is threatened to close herself away and put on the familiar mask of “I’m okay”-ness that we all are tempted to wear each day, all the while dying inside.
And so, I add another line to my definition: Community is honesty- opening our true selves up to others, trusting them to hold our gift carefully in love (with the full knowledge that we may face the pain and humiliation of scrutiny or condemnation instead). It is also being the loving holder of another’s gift of honesty with us.
Community without God is just a neighborhood of strangers, or a band of people who believe in the same things to the exclusion of those who don’t agree. But with God, community becomes a reflection of God: His all-encompassing, never failing, always present Love. All are welcome into His community; none are excluded. This kind of community is hard and holy and worth the pain and sacrifice it requires because in its fullness, it is Jesus living through each of us to each of us. It is a glimpse of His glory right here on earth, in our midst.
Are you ready for that kind of community?
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
(Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)