So here’s the thing about community. Everyone talks about it. Everyone wants it and at the end of the day, we actually NEED it. However, our culture values community with words, but individualism with actions. When the rubber hits the road, its often not about “we”, it’s about “me first”. If “we” becomes the end result it becomes a bonus.
We all love the idea of community, but to love the idea of community will only end in us breaking community. We must truly love one another, preferring one another above ourselves for authentic community to flow naturally. The reason community often fails is because we want what we want first. We want our freedom, our dreams, our desires. We have been sold an individualistic message that tells us these come first, but in order for God’s idea of community to manifest, we must lay down our freedom for one another. This is where we know we’re not just talking about love, but living it. Love that is shown through sacrifice is sacred. Jen Polluck Michel puts it this way in her book, “Teach Us To Want”, “Community, you could say, puts a restraint on desire”. There’s a message we don’t hear much of: embracing our restraints for the sake of one another. We are so accustomed to consuming that the idea of investing of lives for the sake of others indeed sounds inspiring, but is often the road less travelled.
It’s important to get passed the theory of community that most will nod in agreement to and commit to work out the nitty gritty of what God’s idea of community truly looks like. I believe it starts with a simple statement; “I see you”. In order to “see” one another, we have to remove the blinders that keep us focused on ourselves; when we “see” one another, we take a glimpse into another’s soul. When we do this, our eyes open to see the DNA of our Father placed in one another. We see the wonder of our creator reflecting in the eyes staring back at us. When we can see God in and at work in another’s life this does wonders for creating community. How?
1. It changes the way we hold one another accountable. Instead of seeing sin in the life of another, we see who they truly are and hold them accountable to that. Because of our great love for one another, we call each one up to the destiny and identity they have been given by our Father.
2. We walk and journey with the broken and commit to them until we see them reach victory. We don’t expect everyone to have it together before they can be a part of the community. We are not afraid to get our hands dirty to do whatever it takes to see us all cross the finish line together.
3. We aren’t afraid of one another. When we see our Father in each other, there is no color of skin, rich or poor, male or female, slave or free. We see the oneness and find the common ground of our adoption into His kingdom.
4. Jealously, greed and pride find no place among us. If we lay down our freedom, we find joy when others succeed. We rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
5. Poverty is eliminated. Being growing up in a Pentecostal church, I often heard about the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given to the first believers. I have heard much about the signs and wonders that followed. What I didn’t hear much about is how they had no need among one another because they gave everything they had and shared. As radical as this sounds, this may be one of the most profound ways to know whether we are truly about community as much as we say we are. How can I walk along side my brother carrying empty bottles and not see him as a part of my city, my community?
If we take HIs idea of community seriously and are willing to lay down ourselves for the sake of others we may be on the brink of not only just understanding God’s heart, but seeing the cultural shift for the sake of the Kingdom we have all been praying and yearning for.