Why does community matter? It’s what we’re made for. People spend years in philosophical study, counselling and therapy to discover their purpose in life. This is it – to share your life with a group of people in giving, receiving, helping, partnering. To work together; to share words together; to worship together. When the Bible says God made man in His image – His image, the core of who God is, is community, a community of 3. He made us to reflect that, he made us to Need other people and for them to need us. He made us to share our hopes and dreams with those around us.
And we’re losing touch with what it really is that makes us fully human in the image of God, because we’re kidding ourselves that the veneer of community is enough. We’ve succumbed to the lie that we can live either alone, or as a “nuclear” family. Nuclear families are important, don’t get me wrong. But you know what, they are NOT enough. By all means Honour your Father and Mother; by all means commit to your husband, wife or civil partner; by all means give all you are to your children. But we are made for more than that – true family and community is so much more than this. We are not an island (as the brilliant Simon and Garfunkel might say), we are a colony ON the island.
Jesus himself showed how true community can work, how friendships can be built on each other and have varying levels of intimacy and connectedness – and He needed that community around him. He was sad at the prospect of potentially losing his community (“are you going to leave me also?”). He needed them, and was happy to be needed BY them. And He never, EVER, lets go (strange that counsellors and psychologists paint the inability to let go as a negative thing…. Makes me question their usefulness – as for me as a disciple of Jesus I shall be following his example and that of God in not letting go of people who are important to me).
And back to the veneer – the lie that we tell ourselves that we can be involved with people’s lives by momentary internet sentences and posting funny pictures. It’s not enough.
Without Community we are not complete. Without depending on others, and letting them depend on us, we are not fully reflecting our purpose or the image of God – is this perhaps what Jesus meant when he said we must be like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven? A Child is utterly dependent on not just their parents, but the entire community of aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, carers – they are still open to true community.
And if community is so important and such an integral part of our experience as humans – well, why aren’t we truly investing in building those relationships. Partly, because our inherent laziness has been pandered to with the appearance of community that so many settle for.
But you know, I see out there people who are seeking out a way to form, build and develop their God designed need for community. People who reject the island principle, the nuclear principle and the substitute offered by the veneer.
How are they doing this? They are sharing 2 things – Meals and stories.
They are investing time, patience, energy oh yes and food, into people around them. They work together (and I’m not necessarily talking about paid work either – doing voluntary church work, or other voluntary work is just as much working – even more so having to do it on top of your paid work!) they eat together, they realise their dependence on each other – and they share stories.
Sharing stories, especially ones we all already know are a way to understand how the people around us think and feel. Because in sharing and re-sharing the stories in different ways we begin to understand those who are listening, who are sharing, who are questioning. It’s our companion’s reaction to and view of a story that reveals the most about them. And being open to a new view on a story, a new outlook on something we’re familiar with that can open a whole new book of wisdom for each of us – another reason why it’s important for me not to dismiss the views and stories of my Colleagues.
Sharing our own stories that we are all familiar with, reinforces our own community history. Sharing stories of a lost loved one is key part of the grieving process (the “do you remember the time she did that” stories that make you all smile and sigh and cry and then smile again). Sharing new stories unlocks new aspects to our friends we never saw before. Sharing stories (and Meals) is the foundation of true Godly community – but then that’s just my view of course…J
And as the Wonderful Margaret would say – the only things that are going to last forever are relationships – your relationship with God and your relationship with others, so let’s invest in them now! – is this what Jesus meant when He said build up treasure in Heaven. (we’ll hear a lot more from her in future Blogs – suffice it to say she is my mentor, one-time Youth Leader, friend and role-model)
So what’s my endgame here? I do seem to have rambled somewhat – but at the end of the day what I want to say is this – by all means share your life via facebook, twitter, email, letter – but make it PART of building your community, not the WHOLE THING. I pray you don’t lose the importance of seeing someone’s face as they react to a story or joke (Indigo!); I pray you seize opportunities to share meals; I pray you are blessed in each community you are part of, that you would seek out both those who are like you and have a soul connection with and those who are not like you – for they might surprise you. And I encourage you to share stories, new stories, old stories, stories of how you met, stories that make you laugh, stories that make you cry. But share them, and watch your connection grow.