So, the “How?” question concerning community has proved to be a bit of a challenge to me. I realized when I started asking “How?” about community that there are a few things this can mean. “How do we do community?” or “How is community accomplished?” or even “How is community possible?” Well, I think all of these questions are important, but I figured the question of how community is possible is one of the most basic, so I’ll start with that.
We humans are an interesting lot. On one hand, most of us desire to have friends and family around us. Most of us don’t like to be alone or lonely. True, different people with different personalities can tolerate or enjoy alone time more than others, but it’s pretty universally true that most people don’t like to be isolated. On the other hand, many people purposely isolate themselves. People have been hurt in the past and don’t want to risk being hurt again, so they keep others at arm’s length. People are embarrassed or afraid of what others would think if they knew the whole truth about them, so they don’t let anyone in for too close of a look. People are selfish and only care about others to the extent that others can meet their needs and make them feel good about themselves. (Understand, when I say “people,” I mean “me.” I certainly do all this, and I think most of us would acknowledge we all do, if we were to be honest).
With this dichotomy present in people, how can true community, the kind that’s honest and real, ever truly exist? For believers, the answer lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, every person ultimately has the exact same problem. We are alienated. We are alienated from each other, yes, but the Bible is clear that our biggest problem is that we are alienated from God. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin (disobedience/rebellion against God) has caused us to be alienated from God and one another – and we have ALL sinned. As a result, we stand before God justly condemned for our sin: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). So, we all have a problem.
Fortunately, God, who is both just and merciful, provided a solution. He sent his Son Jesus to live a sinless life and then to die and pay the penalty for our sin: “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). If we confess that we have sinned against God and believe that Jesus paid the price for our sin, we can be saved from the condemnation we justly deserve! This is great news!
What does this have to do with community? Well, the fact that Jesus died on the cross means that we can have peace with God – the very God whom we have sinned against and who should reject us because of our sin. Because of Jesus, our relationship with God is restored, and we are no longer alienated from Him. “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:10-11).
In the same way, because Jesus died on the cross, we have peace with one another. We are no longer alienated. We no longer have to hide or be afraid of people knowing the real person we are. We no longer have to be selfish, asking what can we “get” from other people or relationships. As believers, we are identified by Christ’s righteousness; this is what we truly are. And so, we are able to be real and honest, confessing sin, praying for one another, sharing struggles and burdens, serving one another, knowing that our identities are found in Jesus Christ and his work on the cross on our behalf.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
So, how is community possible? God has made it possible by sending his Son Jesus to live a perfect life, die to pay the penalty for our sin and be raised from the dead- defeating Satan, sin and death. Because of this, we are reconciled to God first and then to one another and are enabled to live in true community with one another. Thanks be to God.