The Bible describes the community of Christians as the body of Christ. Like the body is made up of different parts, the body of Christ is made up of different individuals. The intention of God clarified throughout the New Testament is that every Christian forms a significant part of the community or body. In this article, I will be uncovering why as Christians we need community, fundamentally and practically. I pray that you will embrace your need for community and that it bears good fruit in your life in Jesus’ name.
Embodying the God of community
The Christian cannot honour God without living in community. I propose the notion that community aids us in being image bearers, which ultimately allows us to honour God, a fundamental reason we need community.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”Genesis 1:26
Being God’s image or his representation is more connected to living in community than we realise. This is because God exists in community. In Genesis 1:26, when ‘us’ is used, it refers to the Godhead, the three persons that form the community where God exists and works all things, namely, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. Fundamentally, if we neglect community then we are neglecting to be God’s image, which in turn leads to a plethora of other issues. Without knowing it, living in isolation can be a claim that one is more capable than the God who lives in community.
The person within the Godhead we are called to embody specifically is Jesus, who lived as a human being in community. He had a community of twelve men he shared life with and within the twelve, he had an inner circle of three. I remember exploring the idea of community amongst a group of men I share life with meaning we walk through the scriptures together and hold each other accountable.
We were speaking about the need for community and one of them made a point about Jesus, who took the three within his inner circle: Peter, James and John with him to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was about to face the temptation of choosing his will over the Father’s so he told them to watch and pray (Mark 14:32-42). Granted they weren’t the best accountability partners at that point because they fell asleep, nevertheless, he saw the importance of having people who were watching and praying whilst he faced his test.
If Jesus sought community, who then are we to think we can do this Christian walk alone?
Obeying scripture’s mandate for community
It can be more difficult to be obedient to the scriptures if we live outside of community. The New Testament authors, inspired by the Holy Spirit encourage us towards community with verses like:
- ‘Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ’ (Galatians 6:2)
- ‘Exhort one another daily so that you are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin’ (James 3:13)
- ‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed, for the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective’ (James 5:16)
These are amongst many admonitions towards community in the New Testament. These verses can only be adhered to by those who are actively living in community and the consequence of isolation often means that Christians are discouraged and struggling alone.
A brother or sister can remind you that there is no condemnation in Christ when there is a temptation to yield to condemnation. A brother or sister in Christ can stir you up into faith and good works and a brother or sister can sharpen you as iron sharpens iron. Community allows us to practically apply Paul’s admonition to Timothy to ‘flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart’ (2 Timothy 2:22). A phone call to a trusted brother or sister when youthful lusts seem more appealing than righteousness could be what aids you to ‘flee and pursue’. Having communities that help me to apply this and the above verses has proven to be a major source of strength and it should be for every member of the body of Christ. If it isn’t then we are being disobedient to the scriptures.
It’s clear to see biblically that the call to community is non-negotiable if we truly want to honour God and glorify Him. At its root, community allows us to be image bearers and practically, it allows us to mirror Jesus, our God who lived in community. It also allows us to be obedient to the admonishments that scripture calls to. It can make a significant difference in us thriving and being victorious or being discouraged, living in defeat, in our walks with God. I pray again that God allows you to see your need for community and for it bear good fruit in your life.