The idea of community is central to a Christian understanding of life.
First, God himself is revealed to be an eternal community of persons, ‘the same in substance, equal in power and glory’. So, community is not an invention by man; it is as timeless as God.
At creation, God established a human community by giving a partner to Adam, thus creating the community of family through the institution of marriage.
After the fall, man’s rebellion came to a peak when he attempted to build a hostile community in the city of Babel which God had to disband.
God does not save individuals to exist independently as atoms; he brings them together into a holy community – the Church. The execution of the plan of redemption has been strongly centred on communities.
First, God made a covenant with Abraham that through his seed all the earth would be blessed. God went on to command him to circumcise all his family, designating them as God’s covenant people. In line with this covenant, the families of his son, Isaac, and then Jacob, become God’s covenant people. The twelve sons of Jacob (now Israel) would go on to form the Jewish nation. And when Christ came, he formed the New Testament church as a holy community built upon the foundation of the twelve apostles. As he expressed shortly before his death, his desire was that they may be one, just as he and his father are one (John 17:11, 22).
The great goal of redemption is the establishment of a community of redeemed humanity united with Jesus as the head. The redemptive love which God has and expressed is not merely for individuals but for the whole world (John 3:16). Much later after the ascension of Jesus, John would see a vision of redeemed humanity gathered “from every nation, from all tribes and people and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ‘ (Revelation 7:9-10)
In other words, what rebellious humanity attempted by establishing the city of Babel (Genesis 6), and currently seeks through numerous secular initiatives for world unity, God brings about through Christ’s redemption.
What then shall we do?
In view of its importance, we should nourish and nurture community in our families, churches, and organizations. God’s revelation points out that this is the best way for us to function as humans. Individualism will neither fulfill nor satisfy our human spirit; we were made for community. We are to establish a fellowship with God through Christ, and then seek community with others, with the Church as primary.
Let us build loving and godly families. If we hope to build godly societies, the family is our starting point. It is the bedrock of human society.
Build strong closely-knit churches which will bear witness to Christ through their unity. This was Christ’s desire and it was a major factor in the early church’s growth.
Establish communities and organizations which recognize the diversity among her members and is deliberate about making use of their different gifts and talents. Such an organization would take seriously the counsel of Peter:
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10)
Community is crucial; it is an important way by which we image and reflect God in the world.