Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good
return for their labor:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie
down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be
overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
I am made aware daily, in this individualistic culture, that we are in need of community...when I look around me and see all the pain, loneliness, and wounded lives...when I look around me and see absentee parenting...when I look around me and see teens (and many adults) looking for acceptance and initiation into adulthood through sex, addictions, and gangs...when I look around me and see men who are deeply wounded by life around them...I see a need for genuine community. Why are so many of us addicted to noise, television, texting and social media? I believe we are in search of that community. Why are the bars full? People are in search of community and connection.
Community builds strength. As the verse points out, two working together makes work more efficient. I’ve always heard the phrase, “Strength in numbers.” Teams win track meets when they enter large numbers of athletes in events. The more athletes in an event, the more points the team is able to score. Basketball teams that can run several players through a game wear down the opponent with fresh-legged players. By Christians banding together in strength, those in community can stand against the attacks by the evil one.
Community fosters sharing. Sharing life together makes life more palatable. When I see that others are dealing with the same (or similar) struggles I am, I am comforted. I am more open to share my struggles and therefore gain some insight and healing around those struggles. Life is easier to handle knowing there are those thinking about me and praying for my situations.
Community makes us less vulnerable to attacks. I sin most when I am alone. Community keeps me in check. Community holds me accountable to my agreement to follow Christ and his teachings. Satan loves nothing more than to get me alone so that he can cut me off from my strength and community. Predators single out sheep from the flock when they attack. When I am a sheep alone, I am susceptible to Satan’s attack. In his book Healing the Shame that Binds You, John Bradshaw offers this: "There is an ancient proverb that states, 'One man is no man.' This saying underscores our basic human need for community, which underscores our need for relationships and social life. Not one of us could have made it without someone being there for us. Human beings need help. Not one of us is so strong that he does not need love, intimacy and dialogue in community."
So, what keeps me from community? First of all, my shame gets in the way. I want to hide my darkness. I am afraid that if the community really knew me, it would reject me. I am ashamed of my sin and my thoughts. I feel that I have to have my life together before I join the saints in community. However, once I am in community, true community, authentic community, I see that I am not alone in how I live my life.
A second barrier to community is my living out of past wounds. People have let me down. Because that was painful, I guard my heart from that pain. Avoiding community dulls that pain for me. As I grow older, I realize that much of the wounding I endured came from others who were wounded and they knew no other way but to wound others to dull their pain. They need my presence in community as much as I need a safe place.
The final barrier for me is that I do not believe I belong. I’m not good enough, handsome enough, or I’m not smart enough to compare with those around me. Also, the reverse could occur. I can be feeling self-superior to those around me and not want to associate or connect with the community. I begin to compare myself to others and set up a false sense power. Truth is, I belong in both cases. When I am inferior, I am reminded that I am God’s creation and belong. When I am self-superior, I realize that there are skeletons I am hiding and that I am no place to be condescending toward others.
As a Christian I need to be more about community and less about what our doctrine says. Doctrine is important...tradition is important...knowing God's Word is important...but I will never be able to reach those around me without creating a loving community. Furthermore, my community needs my strength, sharing, and accountability in order to build that strong cord of strands.
If I think community, offer community, and love as a community, then I will be more equipped to reach the lost and contribute to the strength of the community.
1. Which of the three barriers to community do you identify with?
2. What might be some other barriers to community? Explain.
3. Describe the circumstances where community was beneficial to you.
4. Describe a situation where you were beneficial to your community.
5. This week, if you are in community, reflect on how important that community is to you. Take time to voice that to your group. If you are not in community, look into your life and see why you have been avoiding community. Ask God to soften your heart toward community and look for a place to join.
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