I need community. You need community. People all over the world may not call it that, but they need community.
During the 70s and 80s, terms like community or faith family didn’t exist as far as I knew, but the need for it and the effects of not having it have existed throughout time.
The inspired-by-God writers of the Bible and Jesus had a lot to say about people’s needs . . . Near the top of list? Community.
First of all, in the Old Testament, God gives instructions (commands, really) to his chosen people, the Israelites, that emphasize the community aspect of what they should and should not do. Each command was for the good of the entire nation. It’s not every-man–for-himself in this people group, God told them. They were meant to take care of each other.
The Hebrew word for community went beyond just “people live close to each other.” It meant “fellowship,” “sharing” and “intimacy.”
Then, in the New Testament Jesus was also clear about the definition of community, but since he was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, Israelites AND the whole world could see a living, breathing example of the intimacy so important in community.
Jesus was the world’s best living, breathing example of all time, especially of how to love people unconditionally and with humility. Not only did Jesus love all disenfranchised people (women, prostitutes, lepers, etc.), he showed people how to do it. One of the best examples was recorded by John (chapter 13) when Jesus washed the stinky, dusty, dirty feet of his disciples, an act of service impossible to do without a servant’s heart.
Later in the same chapter, Jesus told his disciples, basically, “What I did for you is what you should do for everyone you meet. But it doesn’t count if your attitude stinks and your heart isn’t in it.” Then, with V-shaped fingers, he probably pointed to his eyes then to them, saying “And, yeh, I’m watchin’ you!”
So maybe not that last part, but Jesus was clear on how and why we should have a faith community. After his death and resurrection, he knew we would mess up in this area, so he sent the Holy Spirit to remind, convict and guide us as we walked this difficult road of service to humanity.
. . . And mess up we did and do!
However, God created all of us to crave community. Even the most introverted people were given the desire to be in community. Jesus could read people’s minds, but his eyes were always searching for people in need – people who didn’t have faith families, people who were hurting – so he could give physical, then spiritual, healing.
Jesus knew that our human flaws would cause us to come up short, but he made clear that was no excuse for failing to care for others. Here are ways to do that like Jesus did:
- Look past the physical and see the spiritual. Every soul longs to be acknowledged as a living, breathing person. Every soul is created by God for a purpose.
- Look people in the eye and smile. Being acknowledged and noticed may just be thing someone needs desperately, and it could mean the difference between life and death.
- Listen for clues. Most of us are too busy to really hear what people are saying. Haven’t you been able to read between the lines of someone’s insistence that they’re “fine, just fine.”
- Listen to the Holy Spirit. It gives us that feeling, that conviction, that someone’s meaning goes beyond their actual words.
- Love people so well – showing grace just like Jesus did it – that they will want what you have.
- Love the unlovable and, with words and actions, tell them how Jesus and the cross changed your life.
Right now, in this selfish, anxious, stressed-out culture, people need to live “in community” which means being around people in various life stages and experiences, learning from other believers, bearing burdens in the body of Christ, growing spiritually and encouraging others in their growth, and “being Jesus” to imperfect people who love him imperfectly. A faith family is the best place to learn about grace, worship, and prayer.
The writer of Hebrews says it best: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (10:24–25)
Look at people, listen to them, then love them like Jesus did. He created all humans to desire community, and he’s calling Christians to not only be part of a faith family but to invite others into theirs.