By Ward Shope
New Year’s resolutions are challenging this year. Many made new commitments to exercise when the pandemic set in. So apart from the holiday bulk we’ve managed to swallow, we’ll just be getting back to what perhaps we were doing before. There are always the well-meaning faith resolutions such as: more consistent Bible reading, more prayer, and more patience – all of which are excellent goals. But where do we go from there?
I’d like to go a little counterintuitive here and suggest a resolution: To be in and develop community. I know, I know. With all the pandemic isolation and restrictions, how can one develop community with others? This eon of existence is all about isolation. And the response is, “That’s exactly why we need to make the community resolution.”
The Lord knows that we need community – not necessarily gatherings, but integration into groups of people who ruthlessly and unwaveringly are for one another. This may be partly met by our flesh and blood family, though the Scriptures make clear that deeper than this is the connection of brothers and sisters God has brought together by the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. He created this community by the cross. This is our eternal community – beginning now! The church community is where Kingdom life gets played out among us.
What does God’s community look like? It includes worshiping together. There’s a bond that becomes apparent as we sing, pray, and listen together to hear God’s words of grace as we find forgiveness from Him and reconciliation with Him. Yet community goes further. It invites others into soul-touching relationship, always open to including more as the Lord provides. Whether a couple of families gather together, a group or men share a drink, or someone simply gets in touch with someone by phone (text or email), we help pass on life by talking about what’s going on in other’s lives – and we enable them to speak life into our lives as well. Our eternal community is being lived out now even in this pandemic as we slog our way through the challenges and joys.
We also develop community by serving together. Every week, some in our church practice community in the Food Cupboard by serving: lugging heavy boxes around with others for the sake of those with material needs beyond our own. Many are providing meals for others. Some just need handy tasks done in their homes.
Being present with others physically can be helpful, but because community is primarily marked by a heart concern for others enabled by God’s Spirit, it can happen at physical distance. Others help me resolve conflict, show me a new perspective, or work on a project together even when separated. Community is sharing burdens, listening well, being willing to open ourselves up to others – each one participating for the common good and growth of us all.
There’s nothing outwardly astounding about any of this. No one will probably notice (except the ones involved). Yet, participating in community could likely be the most life-changing activity in our lives this year. And it is the way God has called us to live for our good and His glory.