American life has always seemed to exalt the idea of individualism, the person who battles challenges alone. It’s yet another place where we need God’s help not to conform to the patterns of this world—we were created for community!
God’s purposes for us are greater than independence or isolation. In fact, Scripture reveals that in our divine design are the seeds of community. God is a Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—and we see these Three collaborate in the united purposes of God. Amazing and mysterious!
Because we were made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28), we too are created to experience the same synergistic community and to reflect and enjoy the divine benefits of Christian community.
However, for some, this is a difficult topic. We may desire spiritual kinship with others, but forces within, like a fear of new situations or broken trust, can keep us from experiencing God’s best and from moving toward others. Often busyness leaves us little room for building relationships with those with whom we can experience God’s purpose for our life.
It’s unfortunate, because life as God intended it is to be lived out in deep connection with others. In the Scriptures, I see five characteristics that describe God’s intended community:
Interdependence. In the New Testament, our relationships are described in terms of interdependence (the “one another’s”) nearly 60 times. Consider these examples: love, instruct, serve, be patient with, be kind, exhort, admonish, encourage, build up … all reflect interdependence.
Authenticity. This characteristic grows a community where people really know and submit to one another. You know, the real issues of life. We are to confess sin and bear each other’s burdens within community (Galatians 6:2, James 5:16).
Transformation. Communities experiencing interdependence and authenticity yield transformed lives. Safe, trusted relationships provide a place where we can really be who we are, and God uses friends to change us from the inside out (Proverbs 27:17 NLT).
Mission. God’s desired community is involved in His mission. The kind of community described in the previous points is attractive! People are drawn to groups of friends who share life, are honest and vulnerable, and are expecting God to change them into new people (1 Peter 2:12).
Worship. When we live in community as God intended, praise bubbles out of our lives; it naturally induces reverent praise to God from our hearts and lips. It is a gift from Him to have friendships as I’ve described above. It produces feelings, words, and actions that glorify God (Colossians 3:16,17).
By doing life with others, we can reflect the “one another’s” of life in Christ. Does your community of like-minded friends reflect these five characteristics in a meaningful way?
To read more from Doug, visit his blog at makingwaves.navigators.org