By Brian Franks
We’re meant for community. In the beginning, the perfect, self-existent, self-sufficient, all-powerful, living God chose to create. In this creation He laid the groundwork, and literally the ground itself, for His vision. He made the stars, flora, and fauna of every kind. Indeed, everything we see sprang to life at His command or hand.
Then, He continued with two more creation acts: “let us make humanity in our image” (Genesis 1:26) and God set apart the Sabbath day and blessed it (Genesis 2:3). Both of these are deeply intentional acts of community. The Sabbath is not a day of sleep. Rather we cease from our work, and this allows us to commune with our God and His people without distraction.
LIVING IN COMMUNITY FOREVER
Skip to the end of the biblical story and we find much the same. Sin and death have been destroyed. What does God do with a perfect world? “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people” (Revelation 21:3 ESV). Believers will live in community forever with God and with each other.
Skip to the middle of the biblical story: Jesus Christ dying on a cross. Why does He die? To atone for sin? Yes! Why does He do this? To reconcile us to God. Why does God want this so much? Community (Romans 5).
The fact is we were created with community in mind. God designed us that way and God is bringing history toward its inevitable conclusion with a community forever in perfect fellowship.
ISOLATING PEOPLE FROM COMMUNITY
Against these community-oriented acts of God, we live in a society that seems bent on dividing communities in every way imaginable. This division is a continual work of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-21). So much seems aimed at isolating people (one of the Devil’s most favored tactics) from community.
Our social media sites project thriving communities of billions, yet we find that many of these are fake or neglected accounts. Even the ones representing a real person are often only a projection of that person, highly curated and edited.
Often this hollow “community” leads to depression and loneliness and perhaps seeking after professional help, counseling, and medication. There are times when these remedies may be needed. But all the while, the lack of community may not be addressed, and the cycle continues to spin out of control.
WE NEED EACH OTHER!
Though often neglected, community is so important—we need each other! For our mental health, we need deep fellowship. In so doing, we counsel each other, sharpen each other, and lift each other up.
A healthy community around us goes a long way toward resolving all the loneliness and division in the world. It does wonders just to listen to those around you and to be heard yourself. All these actions fulfill part of God’s design for community.
THE EXAMPLE OF NAOMI AND RUTH
Consider Naomi and Ruth. Naomi has reached the point of despondency, and rightfully so. She has experienced the deaths of her husband and both of her sons in the span of ten years (Ruth 1:1-5). She renames herself Mara, meaning bitterness (Ruth 1:20). She plans to cut ties with Moab and her surviving daughters-in-law to return to her homeland.
Imagine taking that journey alone—only, Ruth won’t leave her. Naomi advises both daughters-in-law to go back to Moab, imploring them she has nothing to offer (Ruth 1:8-14). Orpah departs, yet Ruth vows she will never leave Naomi.
Would you feel at least a little bit better if you were Naomi, making this big move in much sorrow, and your daughter-in-law, with very little reason you understand, vows not just to go with you, but to worship your God and to even die where you die (Ruth 1:15-18)?
A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY
There must have been pivotal conversations between these two over the years as they shared in marriage celebrations but also grieved together over three shared losses. So, Ruth goes with Naomi. She works hard to support her mother-in-law and with the help of Boaz and others, the story has a happy ending (Ruth 4:13-22).
What if there were no Ruth, or Ruth had decided to go back to Moab too? Having even just one person in your life who is like Ruth and committed to your wellbeing goes a long way. Imagine a whole community!
This story shows the essence of a supportive community. Sharing your struggles and receiving help from those who support you is a blessing and one the church is meant to act out continually. Most of the time, just listening patiently to each other cultivates a lot of growth and healing.
SUPPORT EACH OTHER
This role of listener and supporter can bring someone from the edge of suicide or out of the depths of chronic depression to feeling truly supported. It could mean the difference between someone continuing to walk with the Lord or not.
Though there will be scenarios where mental health professionals are needed, sometimes people get to those dark places simply because they have no one who walks with them and hears them or supports them in the trials of life.
The commitment to being a supportive community is challenging but worthy work. It reflects the community of God and is bolstered by the Spirit of God as we seek to support each other.