Living alone or in community?


Olive and olive oil by stockphoto.com

 

NOTE: This is an updated post from a couple of years ago.

To be left alone or to be in community?

Hmmm, if I am honest, I too often prefer to be alone than in community.  What does that say about my view of spirituality and of the character of God?

Here are some thoughts coming out of Psalm 133 in which the Psalmist clearly says that it is good and pleasant to be in community, to dwell together in unity!  Jesus had a few things about this in John 13 and 17!

The kind of community described in Psalm 133 is something attractive, something that most of us (including myself) long for.

First of all, it is GOOD (tov). Think God said something about it not being good to be alone from the beginning!  So, it should not surprsise me to think that he thinks it is good to be together.

But community/unity is also delightful or it is pleasant. A quick search on na’im which is the Hebrew word, gives the picture that the delight of community should be similar to the joy we have in our relationship with God when we praise Him, the delight that comes with compliments, the pleasure that wisdom and knowledge brings to our heart.

Two images–like oil and like the dew. Eugene Peterson in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction suggests that the oil communicates a “sense of warm priestly relationship. “

With this imagery, we see God’s anointing of one another–we recognize that God is (equally) at work in my brother or sister’s life.  I recognize and value what God is doing in my brother and understand that this may mean speaking the truth in love to one another.

What extravagance to see oil flowing down—community as rich, sweet and fragrant. It is natural that we honor our brother/sister and rejoice when they rejoice!

Peterson suggests that dew brings an imagery of a “sense of freshness and expectant newness.” Should  community not bring a thirst quenching for the soul? It is like water on hot day or rain after a drought or the hot season.  This image of community provides the promise of better things to come, of blessings!

What creates community? Colossians seems to bring unity and community together well in Col 3:14 “love is what binds us all together in perfect harmony.”  Yep, back to love and 1 Cor 13!

What prevents community from forming?

  • Seeing others as competitors
  • Seeing others as problems to fix
  • Using others as a means to make me or the organization successful

What to do?

  • Stop labeling others
  • Stop presuming to know why people do what they do
  • Take each person seriously
  • Learn to trust one another other
  • Depend on one other
  • Be compassionate with and towards others
  • Rejoice with others.

Peterson quotes Bonhoeffer,

“The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother . . . as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word . . . Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.”  Cost of Discipleship

So, if I choose solitude over community, can I understand myself? how growth occurs? what is really important to God? learn how deceived I am about my own spirituality.

What can we do to  build into community around us today?

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  1. Charlie
    May 12, 2008 at 9:05 am

    Dave,

    Just ordered “Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction” by Benner, in part to explore this subject of community. I think we all would admit to having a need for this but struggle to know what it looks like, and so we often miss the mark and settle for something shallower.

    Charlie

  2. May 12, 2008 at 9:25 am

    Actually, the one that I think is most helpful on helping to build community is Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg. I tried to get our small group to study it. Very readable and would fit in with small group that is wanting to develop community. Benner’s book is excellent–I still want to implement his chapter on spiritual direction with your spouse. Has a nice section on dreams in his book too.

  3. May 12, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Also, if you have not read Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, that is a must read. Short but powerful! Now, that you have me on a roll, another influential book was Larry Crabb’s “The Safest Place on Earth.” I need to go back and re-read that one. He talks about how the church should be the safest place on earth. But . . .

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