During the last few months weve heard the word community over and over again. Weve heard it in political campaign advertising. Weve heard it in the news. Weve read it in the papers. Weve even heard it at church. This word can mean different things to different people. Its meaning, and all the implications connected to it can vary significantly from context to context.
It could be a cloistered, walled-in commune a little band of people closed off from everyone and everything else. People with this concept of community may grow their own food, make their own clothes, and isolate themselves from the rest of the world. They are usually bound together by some core belief which is not shared by the rest of society. They have purposely erected walls which keep the world out and the members of the community in. This is an extreme form of community. Most of us wouldnt be very comfortable with this lifestyle. We might consider it a cult might even think it dangerous.
On the other hand, community, in its broadest sense, can be defined by simple geographics. It can be the nation, state, county, city, or neighborhood in which you live. This is probably the most common concept of community a loosely connected group of people who live in close proximity to one another.
People in this kind of community have many of the same concerns. They want safe water to drink, good roads on which to drive, and good schools for their children. Most of their concerns have to do with a certain quality of life. Virtually everyone reading these words would consider themselves to be a member of this kind of community.
Then there is the church the community of faith. While it does share some of the characteristics of other forms of community a belief system not necessarily held by the rest of society and even geographical commonality it differs greatly from all other forms of community. It is other-worldly. It is divinely formed. It exists in the physical realm but is empowered by the spiritual. While other forms of community are temporary, the community of faith is eternal its a forever kind of thing.
It exists in the physical realm but is empowered by the spiritual.
The community of faith may, at times, appear rather odd to people peering in from the outside. It can, at one moment, seem to be filled with diversity which leads to struggle even strife. Then, in the next moment, be gathered together in a dimly lit chapel to pray for its hurting members. The community of faith isnt held together by total agreement on every issue of life. Rather, it is bound together by the unity of the Spirit, by the realization that the world as it is now seen, as it is currently experienced, is very real but also very temporary.
This eternal view of reality, this dedication to a forever kind of existence, changes everything. It changes the way relationships work. It changes the way suffering is experienced. It changes the way success is gauged. It changes the way priorities are formed. It changes the way money is made and spent. And, ultimately, it changes the people who are a part of it.
It isnt always easy to be a part of this kind of community. This is because of that c word change. None of us like it. Some of us are even afraid of it. But all of us are in need of it. Its what were called to when were called to Christ; to be transformed, to become new, to grow up, to be changed, molded by the loving hands of a redeeming Lord to become more like him.
The call is not simply to come to worship, to come to Bible class, or to come to comfort and ease. The call is to come be part of the church. The call is to commitment. The call is to community. Will you answer the call?