The Gift of Community
by Sharon Betters
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
Over the past week Christina Fox encouraged and challenged us to see and embrace the beauty of the gift of community. Today’s Treasure is one of my favorite passages because God makes a covenant with Abraham and promises that He will make a community out of Abraham. That community will be a blessing to those who belong and each one of the community members will be a blessing to others. The Apostle Paul declares that those very promises God made to Abraham are ours if we belong to Jesus:
"And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise."
Imagine if you learned that a relative or friend had left you an inheritance. You wouldn’t lose any time researching exactly what they left you or determining the value of their bequest. Similarly, it’s critical for us to dig deep to try to understand the pricelessness of our inheritance that is ours when we belong to Jesus. Christina has opened that treasure box of covenantal promises and pulled out the gift of community. Let’s take a few minutes to review Christina’s scripture based view of community. She reminded us that we are created for community:
"It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him."
Some might wonder, “If community is so great, why is it so hard to develop trusting relationships?” The scriptures make it clear that our community, though priceless, is fallen:
"They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers…"
Yet sinful as we are, Jesus prayed for us to experience the same kind of union that God the Father and God the Son experience:
“I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me”
Such a union creates an environment where sanctification takes place on a regular basis. When we are committed to biblical community we understand that we are sinners and sinners will hurt one another, and it’s in community that we have the opportunity to love through those broken places and grow up in our faith:
"In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another."
1 John 4:10-11
It’s hard to keep this commitment but the Lord gives us a roadmap and a strategy for pushing through those conflicts and difficult friendships and maintaining unity in community:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Everyone of us will experience difficult relationships that will tempt us to give up on the idea of a community that is more like a family than a club. Yet it’s in those hard places that the Lord challenges us with the words of Paul, to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” It’s in community that we experience the help and hope of the gospel as well as find ways to offer that help and hope to others. Biblical community requires the use of spiritual muscles that sometimes are weak because they have not been used. We experienced the gift of community throughout our lives, but perhaps the most critical time was in the aftermath of the death of our son. God kept many of His promises through His people, people with whom we lived life in biblical community. Choose to make the theology of community a driving force that will not allow you to give up when you are disappointed by relationships.
Sharon W. Betters is author of Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness and co-author of Treasures of Faith. She is Director of Resource Development and co-founder of MARKINC.org, a non profit organization that offers help and hope to hurting people. Sharon enjoys quality time with her husband, children and fourteen grandchildren.
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Contact Sharon with comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.