The Importance of Community
One of the benefits of hard times is that they can have a corrective effect in areas where we have gone astray. A good example of this is the way people who find themselves in tough straits discover that they really do need other people.
It’s been widely believed that those who are most to be admired are those who live as individualists. These are those who are totally self-reliant, and see little need for assistance from anyone outside of themselves. This way of thinking has been summarized by popular sayings like, “I’ll do it my way” and, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Of course, the person who seeks to make the most of his life is admirable. But the one who lives by a philosophy that believes that he really is in control of his destiny and therefore has no need of others is to be pitied.
The most obvious reason he is to be pitied is that he is sure to be a selfish person, absorbed in what he believes his destiny should be. But he is also to be pitied for another reason. The person who faces the hard reversals and grave situations that life is sure to bring is kidding himself if he really believes that he is the master of his fate.
It is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the captain of souls. And it is wisdom to live our lives before Him seeking to maximize all the gifts that are ours as individuals. But we are also to recognize that we exist within larger communities, with all the benefits and responsibilities that go with it.
The most basic community is the family. Here is the primary venue where we learn how to take responsibility for ourselves and care about others. When hard times hit, family becomes all the more important because the need to show responsibility and concern for others is all the more apparent.
Another community of importance is that which involves those who live in our area. This would especially include those we call neighbors. Notably, the Bible teaches us that a neighbor is anyone that we come upon in need (Lk.10:29ff.), and that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mt.22:39).
The most important community of all is the church. Why the church? For one, the church is eternal, and the relationships that exist here will endure forever. But the church is also the most important of communities because it is the pillar and ground of the truth, and it is here that we become those who conduct themselves as those who belong to God (1 Tim.3:15).
We’ve become a culture where individuals typically pass others by without a thought of them. And society as a whole suffers as a result. But we have an opportunity for change. As difficult times befall us, we have an opportunity to rediscover the blessing of community, and the reality that those communities that thrive best are those that acknowledge the Lord as Master of all.