A few years ago, I had a conversation with a guy about running. My heart and mind have always loved the idea of a good run, but my body, even at my peak times of fitness, has always rebelled. Literally, running has always made me sick. My favorite trainer can testify. Anyway, I was expressing this to a person I consider to be beyond wise, and his response illustrated why I know I trust his word. He asked if I knew what the best form of exercise was. I waited for the magic answer, and he simply stated, “the one you are doing.” This is quite profound and can translate to many areas of life, including the idea of community.
God commands us to love him and love others. It’s nearly impossible to follow either of these instructions from a distance, to be obedient without having a relationship with God and with others. Growing relationships brings about community. By definition, community is:
- a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common, or
- a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
— Mark 12:30–31
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
— Hebrews 10:23–25
The disciples were an amazing example of true community. They did life together, and Jesus was always in their midst. He used everyday occurrences and resources to bring them together and experience his presence.
Think about where they were, or even what Jesus used to provide for their needs as he taught them. They saw how Jesus met needs with very few resources. What he had was truly all he needed.
- It was at a wedding where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine. (John 2:1–11)
- They were in a boat, just traveling to the other side of the water when, out of nowhere, a storm caused the sea to rage. Jesus spoke, and all was calm. (Mark 4:35–41)
- From a young boy, the disciples received five loaves of bread and two fish, which they delivered to Jesus. From his hands, they were able to disperse food to thousands with food to spare. (John 6:1–14)
Sometimes the crowds were great in number, but the disciples always seemed to have that front-row encounter that would allow them to grow collectively by what they had taken in.
As I reflect on the most meaningful groups of people I have been a part of, I am continually reminded of our life experiences together. Times when Scripture became our present day, and the things we studied, discussed and prayed about were embedded in our doing life together with Jesus in our midst. It’s also good to keep in mind that God can use anything to draw people together, even if it doesn’t make sense from another’s perspective, even if the group changes, even if people in the group are at different stages in their relationships with him. Jesus was with the disciples 24/7, and among them were doubters, including one who would deny and another who would betray. As in all things, God has a plan and purpose. He simply wants our trust and obedience.
For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.
— Matthew 18:20