Made for Community, Part One
“It is not good for the man to be alone.” – Genesis 2:18a
Not long ago I put on a sweater and found a couple of loose threads, so I did exactly what you’re not supposed to doâ€¦I pulled them. And I pulled them. And I pulled them. And before I knew it I had a handful of loose threads and a whole new fashion sensation that I like to call the “short-sleeved sweater”.
According to sociologists something similar is happening to the fabric of human society in America. The threads that hold us together are getting pulled apart. In his landmark book entitled “Bowling Alone,” Dr. Robert Putnam, a professor at Harvard University, traces the growing crisis of social isolation in America. Dr. Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues; they are bowling by themselves. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers and other factors have contributed to this decline in our sense of community and connectedness.
This growing trend toward isolation is not just a social problem; it’s a spiritual problem. You and I were made for community. Way back in Genesis 2, God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” God made your heart to yearn for community. Deep within every heart is a longing to know and be known, to love and be loved, to serve and be served, to celebrate and be celebrated. And the reason God put that longing into every one of our hearts is that we need one another. Ever notice how many “one another” mandates there are in the New Testament? Love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another. The New Testament was written from the assumption that we would live faith together.
When the Church was born (Acts, chapter 2), the Bible tells us that followers of Jesus immediately became a community. They learned together, worshiped together, ate their meals together, and shared all that they had with one another. Some of us hear those words and think, “That’s way too much togetherness for me! You people would start to get on my nerves.” And it’s true, they would. And they did 2,000 years ago. Ever wonder why the early church letters stress forgiveness so much?
But the early Christian community was more interested in growing together than in being comfortable alone. Are you? There are risks to being in spiritual community, because spiritual community is made up of sinners – redeemed sinners, but sinners all the same – people who sometimes allow selfishness and anger and gossip get the best of them. But that is exactly why spiritual community is the perfect laboratory for spiritual growth; it allows us to flex all of our spiritual muscles including forgiveness, patience, selflessness, humility, and self-control.
For the next few days I want to share a few observations about Christian community from Acts 2. Let’s look into the Wordâ€¦together!
Bringing It Home
1. What has been your experience with Christian community? What challenges have you faced? What blessings have you experienced?
2. To what do you attribute the growing cultural trend toward social isolation? What are the implications for society? For the Church?
Gracious God, you exist in community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You also made me for community. Thank you for making believers one in Christ. Forgive me for failing to live out the reality that of belonging to others in faith and love. Teach and empower me to love others in the body of Christ so that our life together might be a witness to the world of your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN