Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I believe that we were created to live in community with others. God Himself is a model of community in the Trinity. Jesus had community with the disciples. The early church gives us a clear picture of community and what it can look like:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 4:42-47

I love this picture of community in the early church. I love that they met one another's needs. I love that the way that they lived with one another was attractive, and that it gave them favor with the people. I love that they way they loved one another drew others into the Kingdom. I think that we are called to do the same.

So, why do we struggle so much with idea of community? Why is it that pursuing community in our society is so difficult?

I will tell you that it is difficult. At least in my experience. You have to really want it and be willing to work for it. It's not easy.

My first taste of true community was serving with Word Made Flesh in Lima in 2004. There I was welcomed in to a group of believers who not only loved the Lord and desired to serve Him with their lives, but also loved one another and desired to serve one another with their lives. They desired to get to know me intimately, which is something that I wasn't really ready for. I fought against the vulnerability that is a very important part of community. I was afraid of the idea of truly being known. But, little by little, the Lord began to chip away at my heart and teach me the importance of vulnerability in community. He began to show me what it felt like to be known, and to be loved and accepted for all of me. It was a good feeling. I began to see how God was being glorified through this little community of Americans and Peruvians serving together in the midst of a huge city.

When I returned to the States, I wanted more of that sense of community that I had tasted of in Lima. I still do. But, it's hard to find. In our society, everyone is so busy. We spend a lot of time alone - in our cars, in our cubicles, in front of our computers. Our society is not very community-oriented at all. It has even become rare that a family sits down to eat dinner together around a table and spends time getting to know one another. My family didn't, and I have an amazing family. It is so easy in our society to have relationships that are built only on surface level knowledge, without ever seeking to truly and intimately know one another. I don't think that is what Jesus intends for His people. I don't think that's what He intends for His church. After all, He tells us to bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2). How can we do that if we don't even know one another? He tells us that we are one body, "members one of another" (Romans 12:5). We are supposed to "love one another with brotherly affection" (Rom 12:10).

Henri Nouwen says that "nothing is sweet or easy about community. Community is a fellowship of people who do not hide their joys and sorrows but make them visible to each other in a gesture of hope. In community we say...we want to drink our cup together and thus celebrate the truth that the wounds of our individual lives, which seem intolerable when lived alone, become sources of healing when we live them as part of a fellowship of mutual care."

I admit that I still struggle with this. For the past year and a half or so, I have been seeking to live in community with a great group of friends. And still, sometimes I fight against community. I fight against vulnerability. Lately, I have been saying "No" to their desires to know me more and to walk with me through my struggles. I have said "No" to vulnerability and being known more deeply, afraid of being exposed. We have struggled as a group to find unity and purpose. It is not an easy process.

But, I think it's worth fighting for.

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