“Find your tribe” and similar phrases are plastered all over - social media, magazines, special interest groups. Everyone says community is important, and I think innately we know that it is, but why? What do we get from community? What happens when we don’t have it? There are some key foundations to what makes community so important and what happens when we don’t have it. Below are keys to a strong community, with biblical examples of each.
Community does not always equal intimacy. We know that our community includes friendships and marriages, which are intimate relationships, but our community includes more than our friends and spouses. Our community-at-large includes technicians, grocery store staff, hospital workers, the other citizens of our city, and more. We need them to accomplish…well, everything. Many Bible characters, including Abraham, Solomon, and the woman described in Proverbs 31 all owned businesses. Their community included the people and nations they did business with. Rulers of nations made allies with other peoples. They wanted peace and safety for their kingdoms and nations. In the battle of Jericho, the Jews came together to defeat the enemy. They each had to do their part while coming together and marching. In the story of Esther, all the Jews fast from food and water to help Esther save them. Villages came together for holidays to celebrate a shared history. In all of these examples, people came together for reasons that were not the result of intimate relationships.
A common interest or goal. Whether it’s a book club or foreign language group that brings everyone together, or a goal of building a new community center, that commonality created a community. This point goes along with the first point, and many of those examples can be used here. The intimacy wasn’t there but a common interest or goal was.
The basis of community should be love. Phileo, agape, storge - brotherly love, unconditional love, family love - should be the foundation. Those in our community add value to our lives in some way and we should appreciate - love - them. The good Samaritan paid for the injured man to stay at the inn and asked the innkeeper to take care of him. As far as we know, they were strangers when this took place. The good Samaritan saw value in every life. Seven books of the Bible are letters Paul wrote to different churches. Paul wrote out of care and concern for the churches’ well-being and what was happening in their immediate communities. Some men carried a paralyzed man to the house where Jesus was preaching and lowered him down through the roof. The men loved their friend and went out of their way to help him get healed. All of these situations show great love, albeit different kinds of love.
Diversity - in every way. We need women and men. We need people of all ages. We need people with different strengths, gifts, talents, and ways of thinking. God didn’t make teachers, pastors, prophets, intercessors, encouragers, musicians, farmers and everyone else so we could be only with people like ourselves. We will lack in certain areas if we don’t have diversity. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us there are many parts to the Body of Christ and we need all of them. David, when he was “just” a teenager, defeated Goliath and helped a whole nation. Paul and Timothy are an example of gleaning wisdom from an elder. Townspeople traded and did business with each other. Diversity comes in many ways and we need all of it.
Being known. This takes vulnerability but others have to know you in order to build relationships with you. This could be a simple request for help with a car issue or the bare-all sharing in marriage. Without this, we live alone in isolation. What happens when we’re alone, when we’re isolated? There’s no one to help thwart the enemy’s lies, snap us out of our own unhelpful thoughts, or fight with and for us when we need it. Lazarus was raised from the dead because part of his community went to get help. Paul thanks the Philippians for supporting him financially while he traveled around doing God’s will. It was their communities that helped improve their situations. In isolation, without making others aware of our needs, it’s much harder to persevere through and change tough situations.
Keep your inner circle small. Jesus spent most of his time with the 12 disciples. They would be considered his friends. But he had three that went with him everywhere - James, John, and Peter. They were Jesus’ inner circle. That doesn’t mean the other nine weren’t Jesus’ friends or weren’t part of his community. It just means their relationships weren’t as close, or intimate. We just aren’t capable of maintaining many close friendships.
Choose your inner circle wisely. Moses, Aaron, and Hur are a great example of a strong inner circle. When Moses needed them most, they were right there with him holding his arms up. Joshua had victory because of the support Aaron and Hur gave Moses. God has given us dreams too big to do on our own, and our community should help us, especially when we need it most.
God makes it clear in the Bible that community is not only good, but necessary. If you think your community is lacking, use this list to figure out what’s missing and then focus on building that aspect into your life.