I did a Google search on “community” the other day and found this community church, that community church, this community, that community…and on and on. There are community groups and community covenants. And it’s not only Christian’s who use this words. Lots of online forums bear the word “community” in their title. I go to a church that has the words “community” and “fellowship” in the name (that’s actually redundant, but a double-whammy plug for community, nonetheless) and I am a part of the Josiah Community. I’m in a community group and talk a lot about intentional community. So it got me thinking: why all this talk about community?
Personally, community is something that I’m still grasping at. Currently I’m a stay-at-home-well, nothing (not a mom, can I be a stay-at-home-person who cleans the house for house showings so we can sell this freaking thing and move to Chicago?). In any case, I feel very isolated, and with that comes a strong desire for what I label as “community.” I have this overwhelming sense that our relationships with others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, aren’t what they could be, or even what they should be. Why is that? Why do we live in a society of cell phones and email and still feel utterly disconnected? Why all this use of the word “community”? Is it perhaps because we are grasping for community, and using the word, putting the label on our church or group, makes us feel more like we have succeeded?
So over the next few weeks I’d like to examine this topic of community, and perhaps by writing here, discover more about what biblical community is about. Are my personal thoughts about community correct? Is something lacking? Is the church living up to a true model of community? How can we foster community?
As I was first diving into this topic, the first thing I realized is that the perfect example of community is found in the Trinity. This is a pretty common theological understanding of the Trinity: that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit relate to each other out of the purest form of love. And this relationship has existed eternally, before the beginning of time. It is not lacking anything. Nothing in scripture makes any such statement about the Trinity (or even use the word “trinity” for that matter) but theologians from the very beginning have deduced the existence and description of the trinity from the abundance of verses in the Bible like:
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14
In a recent sermon from Rob Bell at Mars Hill entitled “Others,” Bell looks at the book of times and the numerous times the author Paul, calls us to interact with God: “share in God’s grace” (1:7) “through Jesus Christ” (1:11), “united with Christ” (2:1), “fellowship with the Spirit” (2:1). Bell states that a new reader of Philippians is likely to be confused by all these seemingly different titles for the same person, God. He concludes that Paul, who is writing about unity in Philippians, wants to point to the relationship of the Trinity as the source and model of our unity with others.
In fact, we have community with God first.
“And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3
We take communion to remind us that we are a part of the Body of Christ. We are able to join into the perfect love relationship that is the Trinity. We share in Christ’s sufferings and comfort.
“For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:5
So as I am alone more recently, I have the opportunity to develop my community with God. For me, studying and writing has been helpful as I think through what it means to have a personal relationship with God. I have also been learning to enjoy myself more and just let go and enjoy life. I can take my time preparing meals and enjoying God’s unique creations (especially my favorite, food). I can praise God for an upbeat song that fills me with joy. I can talk to Him as I wash dishes. I can show His care to others by writing letters. Of course, every relationship in this fallen world isn’t always easy. There are so many times when I am bored, distracted, or selfish. That is a part of the human community as well.
There is much more to say about this topic of community, but I will save that for next week.