Your Spiritual Wellness and Community
One of the loneliest times in my life was when I first moved into Chicago. Newly living on the Southside of Chicago I did not have a support network. I spent a lot of time alone and it left me feeling isolated from the world. It was not good. But this emptiness led me to a laser-like focus to finding community. I needed it to survive. Eventually, I found a group of young folks like myself and life got better.
You and I are created from community for community. We need community like we need air to breath. We need community like we need water to drink. Because of this community is one of those cornerstones of spiritual wellness.
How were we created from community? Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…. This is God speaking and did you note that the 3 pronouns are all plural? Let us…in our image…in our likeness.
So is there more than one God who created us? No, there is only one God, but what we see here is the mystery of the community within that one God. The church calls this the Trinity. So even God, who is one, is not alone. There is community in himself and it was the community that created humanity. So from that sense we are created from community.
So what about us being created for community? Let’s go again to the first book in the Bible, Genesis, Chapter 2. There we see God created the first human being and placed him in the garden to care for it, to be its steward. But Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” It was clear to God, Adam was not meant to be alone. Adam was created for human community. And so God created the perfect partner and companion. They were the first human community.
When community is absent the result is harm to the core of our being. For many decades the nations have recognized prolonged isolation in prison conditions to be inhumane, even torture. The Geneva Convention forbids the isolation of prisoners of war. Unfortunately, isolation is becoming a norm in our culture.
In the 1980’s research estimated 20% of people in the US felt lonely at any given time. That number is now up to over 40%. The sense of isolation is even higher among the elderly who often spend long days without any social interaction. The hope of social media to facilitate community appears in many cases to be doing the exact opposite. Electronic connections with others through social media does not provide the community we need.
Healthy community is an essential component for us physical wellness, but also for our spiritual wellness. Pictures of the Book of Acts of the early church we’re pictures of a close-knit community. Acts 2:42, All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.
So that’s how we are created from community for community. Let’s move on to the second part that says we are recreated for new community.
Jesus launched his 3-year public ministry with 40-days of isolation in the desert where he was tempted by the devil. Immediately after the desert isolation he began to preach and gather around himself community of core disciples.
Jesus was the Master Builder of Community. One could rightly say that Jesus’ entire purpose was to restore broken community and build a new community. The first broken community Jesus came to restore was that which connects us to God. 2 Cor. 5:18 tells us, And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
Jesus’ life and death and resurrection were all about restoring our community with God. Jesus would maintain that our greatest need is the restoration of community with God. This is what his death on the cross was all about. Sin against God was that which destroyed our community with God and so Jesus came to forgive those sins.
By faith in Jesus we are placed in a new community, the Body of Christ or the Church. Listen to how this portion of Scripture talks about the diversity and unity of the Body of Christ. 1 Cor. 12:12-13 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
This is such a cool picture of Jesus’ community. It pictures it as a body. There is only one body and with this one body there is only one Spirit. But within this one body and Spirit there are many parts. There are toes and fingers, and legs and arms, a mouth and nose and a gazillion other parts; huge diversity in the single, united Body. Diversity yet with unity is a very attractive notion to a lot of people. This notion of diversity yet unity is very avant-guard, very sheik today.
But what happens when you bring many people and many opinions and many functions all together and then you add to that our old sinful nature? It sounds like the perfect… storm. Toe starts to think every other part of the body needs to act and think like a toe. The toe mistakenly assumes her preferences and likes and dislikes need to be the preference, likes and dislikes of every other part of the body. If another part of the body does not agree with her, obviously then there is a deficiency with that other body part. Or if the toe cannot convince every other part of the body to think and act like a toe, it makes the BIG mistake of thinking it does not need the community offered by the other parts of the body.
That’s why the Bible spends a fair amount of time speaking on the subject of brotherly peace.
Eph. 4:2-6 (Phillipes), Accept life with humility and patience, making allowances for each other because you love each other. Make it your aim to be at one in the Spirit, and you will inevitably be at peace with one another. You all belong to one body, of which there is one Spirit, just as you all experienced one calling to one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father of us all, who is the one over all, the one working through all and the one living in all.
Living in community takes humility and patience, and making allowances for each other because you love each other.
Conflict in community is easy. Living in unity that reflects our true unity that we have in the Body of Christ is hard and messy work requiring patience, humility and making allowances for each other. Tearing down the community Body of Christ is easy. Living in unity in the community of the Body of Christ takes a lot of work. Spewing out poisonous toxins of gossip that destroys community is easy. Being patient and loving with what say is hard work. Placing the worse construction on what another person says is easy and it make s us feel so righteous about ourselves. Placing the best construction on another person takes humility and making allowances for others.
Do you want healthy community for spiritual wellness? If we do, it takes hard work. I believe there is a direct correlation between God’s plan for a faith community and the level spiritual warfare directed at it. EXPLAIN… God has great plans to FLV.
So what is one powerful thing you can do to transform stressed community?
In the 1940’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer came up with a suggestion of how to combat disunity within the Body. … Bonhoeffer wrote, A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me. His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner.”
Spiritual wellness exists within the context of a community called the Body of Christ. We need to fight for our community, for our spiritual wellness…not for my sake…not for your sake…but for the sake of those in our community who still do not know Jesus. If that is important to you I invite you to join me in fighting for community and our spiritual wellness…starting with prayer.