Community is woven into the very fabric of our existence. It is the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, the soil that we walk on. From the moment we enter this world, we are thrust into a community, whether we realize it or not. For many of us, our first experience of community came in the form of high school. In high school, we find ourselves drawn to certain groups, certain cliques. The nerds, the dorks, the geeks, the goths – these are not just labels, they are identities. They are communities. And what brings these communities together? Shared interests, shared passions, shared experiences. We long to be with people who understand us, who see the world as we do, who share our hopes and dreams.
But it’s not just in high school that we see this longing for community. Our culture is filled with examples, both good and bad. Reality TV, for example, is a prime example of this. Survivor, in particular, has captured the hearts and minds of millions. Why? Because it taps into our post-modern sensibilities. To win the game, you have to form alliances. You have to work together to survive. But in the end, there can only be one winner. Betrayal is part of the game, and we resonate with that. We long for community, but we also know that we can’t fully trust anyone. It’s a paradox, a tension that we live with every day.
And yet, despite this tension, despite this brokenness, we still yearn for community. We still seek out those who share our interests, who understand us, who can walk with us through the ups and downs of life. It’s a journey that we are all on, whether we realize it or not. And it’s a journey that we cannot take alone. We need each other, now more than ever. We need community.
The yearning for community is etched into our very being. It is woven into the tapestry of our existence. In the opening pages of the book of Genesis, we see the Creator of the universe bringing forth life with His very words. He spoke into existence mountains and seas, animals of all shapes and sizes, and ultimately, mankind. And in doing so, He imprinted a piece of Himself onto us.
If we take a closer look at Genesis 1:26, we find that God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” Notice the use of the plural – “us” and “our.” This is the first glimpse we have of the Trinity, of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit working together in perfect harmony. And we are made in their image.
What does this mean for us? It means that at our core, we are designed for community. We are created to be in relationship with others who share in the same divine imprint. If we turn to Genesis 2, we find God placing Adam in the garden of Eden. He has everything he needs – food, shelter, perfect communion with his Creator – but God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
This statement is often reduced to the need for a wife, but it goes much deeper than that. Even in a perfect world, with no sin or brokenness, something is not right about being alone. It is not good for us to be without like kind, without others who share in our divine image. This is why we were created for community, for relationship, for coming together in shared experiences and shared purpose.
So when we look at high school cliques, or reality TV shows like Survivor, we can see echoes of our deep-seated longing for community. But these are just shadows of what we truly crave – a community that reflects the very nature of God, a community that reflects the divine image within us. And so we must actively seek out and cultivate these communities, for they are the places where we will find our deepest sense of belonging and purpose.
The fall of Adam and Eve is a pivotal moment in the story of humanity. We see the repercussions of their disobedience reverberate throughout all of creation. The community that once existed in the garden is now fractured and broken. The environment, the animals, and even the community of man are all impacted by the sin of Adam and Eve.
This brokenness is felt most acutely in the relationship between man and God. The community that once existed between them is now strained and distant. Sin has created a barrier between us and God, and we can no longer enjoy the kind of intimate relationship that we were created for.
Throughout the ages, humanity has been striving to fix itself, to make right the wrongs that have been done to the different communities around us. Environmentalists are tirelessly working to reconcile the environment, animal rights activists are fighting to reconcile the animal kingdom to the human kingdom, and psychologists are attempting to reconcile man to each other. Ultimately, humanity is on a quest to reconcile itself to God, the only one who can truly bring about this reconciliation.
If we explore the New Testament, we will see that the early church believed that God had reconciled the world to himself in the person of Jesus. This narrative tells us that God sent his son Jesus to earth as a fully man and fully God, to die on the cross for our sins and make right what was made wrong. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead and returned home to prepare a place for us.
What’s fascinating about this narrative is that Jesus did not choose a mighty warrior to pass on his story and its reconciling power. Instead, he entrusted the baton to a group of twelve men who followed him for at least three years. He chose a community to move the gospel forward.
In the gospel of John, the last of the four gospels in the New Testament, Jesus indicates how this gospel was going to go forward. In John 13:34, he gave this small but powerful command: “A new command I give unto you, love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
This command, to love one another, is the key to moving the gospel forward. If we can love one another as Jesus loved us, then we can bring about the reconciliation that humanity has been seeking since the beginning of time. We can show the world that we are his disciples and that we have the power to bring about real change.
How will the world know Jesus? They will know him by the way we, his followers, interact with one another and the world around us. This thing called community is intriguing. As the church, the ecclesia, we have been entrusted with the gospel – the message of reconciliation and the offer of Jesus’ victory to the world so that they too might be reconciled to God, made right, and experience perfect relationship with him. But what is community?
Now, community is not a word you will find in the Bible. However, the concept of community is present throughout its pages. To have community, we must have something in common. Consider basketball, for example. A group of basketball enthusiasts will naturally come together to play or watch the game because they share a love for it. But what about the church? What do we, as followers of Jesus, have in common? The answer may seem obvious – Jesus, of course! But do we truly comprehend the depth of this truth? We are not simply united by a shared interest or hobby. We are united by our love and devotion to the one who gave his life for us, who invites us to join him in his mission of redemption and restoration.
And this brings us to the second part of community – our response to what we have in common. If we truly understand the magnitude of our shared love for Jesus, it will overflow into every aspect of our lives. We will love one another with a self-sacrificing, other-centered love, just as he loved us. We will serve one another, carry each other’s burdens, celebrate with one another, and mourn with one another.
This is the kind of community that the world needs to see – a community that is not just a social club or a religious institution but a family of people who are bound together by something far deeper and more meaningful than anything the world can offer. This is the community that will draw people to Jesus. So let us live it out, my friends. Let us be the kind of community that truly reflects the love of Christ to a hurting world.
If we have Jesus in common, how should we respond to him? The early church offers us a glimpse of how we can respond to Jesus as a community. In Acts chapter two, we see Jesus giving his disciples the command to preach the gospel to all nations. He hands off the mission to 120 people who are his close followers. They wait in an upper room for the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised to send them – the one who would help them talk about the gospel.
When the Spirit of God shows up in the upper room, everyone gathered together begins to speak many different languages. The sound of their voices spills out to those outside who believe that a big party is going on and everyone is drunk. Peter realizes this and rushes out onto the balcony to preach the gospel. At the end of his talk, he warns and pleads with them to save themselves from the corrupt generation. Those who accept his message are baptized, and about 3000 are added to their number that day, planting the first church.
Acts is about the beginning of the early church. Peter oversees the first church being planted after Jesus ascends into heaven, with 3000 members.
If we continue to read chapter two, we discover how the early church responds to Jesus. Starting at Verse 42, it says they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They shared their possessions and goods, giving to everyone as they had need. Every day, they continued to meet together in the temple courts, breaking bread in their homes and eating together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This is the response of the early church to Jesus – a devotion to his teaching, a commitment to fellowship and prayer, and a sharing of everything they had. They were filled with awe and witnessed miraculous signs done by the apostles. They met together daily, breaking bread and sharing meals, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. This is how we can respond to Jesus today – with a devotion to his teachings, a commitment to fellowship and prayer, and a willingness to share everything we have with those in need. May the Lord add to our number daily those who are being saved.