Community has been something that I have often pondered and wondered about over the years. I can’t get away from the fact that Jesus says, “that they (the world around us) will know that we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another”. The most effective method of sharing our faith is by loving each other–showing who Jesus is by how we treat one another. It seems so easy, yet we know that living together in a loving, caring community is anything but easy.
My family has spent many years working as International Workers. Now my husband, Ric, and I are preparing new workers to go overseas into the places God is calling them to serve. Statistics tell us that one of the major reasons why people don’t stay in their place of service is because of interpersonal conflicts. For whatever reason, the community of loving Jesus followers isn’t happening.
We have a desire to be part of a community. It is deeply ingrained in who we are because we have been made in the image of the Triune God, who is himself community. But our experience of that is sadly lacking–we seem to have more stories about how community doesn’t work.
I came across a book a few weeks back that has really been helpful for me, Living Into Community: Cultivating Practices that Sustain Us. It has made me realize that community doesn’t just happen. If I want to be part of a healthy community that reflects Jesus, then I need to be intentional about working towards it. The author says that there are four main practices, or spiritual disciplines, that help to sustain a healthy community. They are: Gratitude, Making and Keeping Promises, Living Truthfully, and Hospitality. This has been challenging me. It seems that the truth of Jesus’ life is linked to how we live life together.
If this is something that you recognize as an area of growth for you, I would challenge you in these summer months to get hold of this book and begin to be intentional about the spiritual disciplines that would help you cultivate a healthier community. In the meantime, take time to look at and meditate on these scriptures. Ask the Spirit of God to use the following verses to speak to you about community.
1 Peter 2:17-22
1 John 4:13-19
Prayer: Dear Father, as Jesus has already prayed for us when he was on earth, we echo that prayer back to you and pray that we, your people who believe in Jesus’ message, would be one, Father, just as Jesus is in you and you are in him. May we also be in You so that the world might believe that You, Father, sent Jesus. Jesus, You have given us the glory that the Father gave You so that we may be one as You are one. Jesus in us, and the Father in You. Bring us to complete unity so that the world will know that You sent Jesus and that You love us even as You love Jesus.
We pray this in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
(Prayer adapted from John 17:20-23)
Contributed by Ruth-Anne Gilbertson