Community is one of those elusive buzzwords in the Christian world. When we mention this word, we like to say that we are currently in a good one, still looking for one, or even hurting because we don't have a good community around us and know we should...We have an understanding that Christian community would be good for us, but often times we can find ourselves feeling unfulfilled with respect to this word.
I have fallen into this thinking before. At times when I have struggled with sin patterns, I found it extremely easy to blame a lack of community. I might say, if only I had a good friend to call when I am tempted, then I wouldn't find it so easy to sin. If only I were more bold at confessing my sins to others, then I would feel like I was moving towards true repentance. If only I...fill in the blank. This is an incorrect view of Biblical community.
Did you notice how all of the statements I just mentioned began with the word I? I do not think individualistic thinking has much to do with Biblical community. In fact, I believe sin is the biggest inhibitor to experiencing freedom in community. Sin tells us that we are fine on our own, that we do not need anyone or anything to help us when we are struggling with different things in life. Now why might sin not want us to find help in times of trouble? If we manage to find help and freedom from entangling sin patterns, then we will be spending more time doing what God wants rather than what sin wants. That doesn't make our adversary very happy, does it?
So what is true Biblical community? One of the best places to look in the Bible is the end of Acts chapter 2. Verse 44 states, "all who believed were together and held everything in common." They held everything in common, particularly each other's well-being (cf. Acts 2.45). This truth makes me think, 'if I knew others held my well-being, why am I so reluctant to go towards them when I need help'? I should not worry about being judged, thought less of, or even punished; because they have my well-being in mind.
If our communities embrace the values that we read about in Acts, we will experience freedom to share our burdens, show grace, and love freely. Further, we will be able to offer the same experience to those outside of our immediate community.
When we dwell on I rather than we, we miss the mark. That does not mean that we don’t take our faith personally. It means that we need to be open to sharing those personal reflections with others in freedom. It also means that we cannot blame someone else for our lack of vulnerability.
Joel Peabody (@joelpeabody) is a staff team member at Awaken Movement UK. He currently lives in Wanstead, London, UK with his wife, Allison, working to help plant a movement of kingdom disciples who desire to live missionally in their community.