Community: No Lone Rangerism
"Community” has become a religious buzzword of late, used to underscore the obligation and privilege of walking with Christ amidst a family of believers. Christian communities are meant to be dynamic organisms marked by the interdependence, availability, accountability, generosity, vulnerability, fellowship and responsibility of all members toward each other. That’s a big order to fill.
In other words, holding a membership in a church, or a church sub-group, such as “the Young Families Sunday School Class” or the youth group, does not necessarily mean the members fulfill what Christ had in mind for the Body in his prayer in John 17: “My prayer for all of them [believers] is that they will be of one heart and mind, just as you and I are, Father—that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.”
Despite idiosyncratic ideas and flaws that can entrap and divide us, we are to be unified with each other in spirit and engaged in each others' lives. That’s easier for some than for others. I belong to the group for whom true intimacy and connectedness does not come naturally or wholeheartedly by nature/personality.
All I can say is, thank goodness that my friends do not let me rest for long in my bent toward Lone Rangerism. In fact, they understand that often we Lone Rangers don’t even realize we are lonely or disconnected, and we don’t see that the Enemy attempts to spiritually pick us off because we’re more vulnerable without loyal friends to help us fight. For those reasons and many more, we’re not meant to travel this road alone, even those of us who feel fairly self-sufficient.
If I asked you to recall scriptural exhortations and examples of community, you might remember passages such as Paul speaking in 1 Thessalonians2:8, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” Or Acts 4:32, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” However, there are many, many examples of community tucked into both Testaments that are easy to miss if we’re not looking carefully.
For example, in John 19, the trial of Jesus, a passage not commonly drawn upon for examples of community, I noticed four distinct instances:
1. Verses 2 and 3 show the Roman soldiers’ and Jewish leaders’ perversion of community: mob mentality. Both factions share a common fear, a common hatred, a common sin, which allows two divergent groups to temporarily merge to accomplish a goal, as in verse 16 when the Jewish leaders shout, “We have no king but Caesar!”
2. In verse 25, we are told that Jesus’ mother, his aunt and Mary Magdalene are standing near the cross together—forming a community sharing sorrow and love and perhaps despair, all three surely comforting one another in an intensely intimate moment.
3. In verse 26, Jesus commends his mother to John’s care, and John reports that she lived in his home thereafter. Likewise, Jesus bids his mother to love John as she would her own son. Thus, each accepts the responsibility, commitment, and privilege to care for one another on a daily basis for the rest of their lives as family.
4. In verses 38-40, Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret follower of Christ, and Nicodemus, who had come to Christ in the cloak of night, emerge together now in broad daylight to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, no doubt encouraging each other in their newfound boldness for Christ.
So here is my challenge: Choose a couple of chapters in any book of the Bible, and look for as many instances as you can find of true community. You may see very familiar scripture in a brand new light. I would love to hear about what the Holy Spirit reveals to you in this exercise!
Please visit my blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee.