By John Crawford
“An epidemic of loneliness.” This is the diagnosis of American society, according to a new study. People in America are lonelier now than ever before, with about half of Americans say they feel lonely. This comes at a time when people can seemingly “connect” with people anytime and anywhere, thanks to technology, smart phones, and social media platforms. This loneliness epidemic reveals that people desire to have community in some way, shape, or form. Unfortunately, this desire has been unfulfilled, as many people have turned to a variety of means that provide the veneer of community, but in reality, they are only pseudo-communities. Pseudo-communities offer socialization or connection, but they don’t satisfy the innate desire within every human to know and be known.
Since loneliness is pervasive in our society, many people are living in isolation, but doing so is dehumanizing because God created every human to live in community with others. In Genesis 1 and 2, God declared that his creation is very good, but there is one thing that is not good—for people to be alone. Our creational design reveals that living in community is an essential part of what it means to be human, and it enables us to flourish. While this is true, our culture is captivated by individualism, where people are independent and self-reliant, and this diminishes participation in communal life.
The people of God can embody what it means to be truly human because we have been gathered together by the Holy Spirit, who has formed a community to be his people in the world (John 20:19–23, Acts 1:6–11). Throughout the biblical story, God has always chosen to use community as his vehicle of mission in the world, and this is how he desires his people to live out the Gospel. In the Old Testament, God chose the community of Israel, and in the New Testament, he chose the church who are gathered together by the Spirit. Not only has God chosen to work through community, but we see there is power in the shared life of his people. As we live together, we are display communities that function as the greatest witness to the Gospel because the world is watching. The world is watching our witness through the ways that we live, love, and serve together. We get the opportunity to give the watching world a preview of the coming kingdom of God through the ways in which our communities faithfully engage in the world.
1 Corinthians 12 explains how we are each parts of one body. Imagine going to the gym and only working out your biceps each session. Would your whole body be built up and strengthened? Or imagine the body without shoulders, elbows, or hands. Could the biceps exercise themselves without using these other parts of the body? In the same way, we are each members of the body, and God has given us unique gifts for the sake of his body (the church). We need community in order for these gifts to be utilized and for the body to function properly. God has not given us individual gifts so we could hoard them to ourselves, but rather to utilize them for service and building up the body. Since we are one body, we are bound together in unity, and the blood of Jesus runs through the body, giving us life. This liberates us to know and be known because we all rely on Jesus to give us life. We can be transparent and vulnerable with others because we are all on a level playing ground at the foot of the cross. We all rely on his grace. This is what humanity longs for—to be fully known and fully loved.
Ephesians 6:10–20 tells us that we are in a battle, and it is against the powers of darkness. Whenever I watch a National Geographic documentary about wildlife, I always see the same thing. There is a herd of animals traveling together in community, and trailing behind the herd is a lion. When the herd stays together, it is very difficult for the lion to attack any animal in it. But, one of the animals veers off and wanders away from the herd and becomes isolated. The lion quickly moves in for the kill, pounces on the animal, and devours it. This is a powerful image of one of the many ways that our enemy works. 1 Peter 5:8 describes Satan as a prowling lion looking for someone to devour. As we live in Christian community, there is power because of the Holy Spirit, and because it becomes more difficult for the enemy to use his servants and their tactics to pounce on us. The beauty of community is that we are known and loved, and we get to walk alongside each other. As we do this, we speak truth to deception, encouragement to despair, hope to temptation, peace to hostility, forgiveness to bitterness, and grace to shame. Unlike the herd of animals, when someone veers away, community runs after us to bring us back. But, when we are living in isolation, we become vulnerable prey to the enemy who is seeking to devour us.
Connect to Community
If you are looking to get connected or desire to be a part of a community, Redemption Communities (RCs) are smaller gatherings of people from Redemption who get together to engage Scripture, pray, share meals, have fun, and serve. Redemption Communities are scattered across the city in various locations and meet during the week for fellowship. If you would like to join a Redemption Community, attending DNA class is your next step. During DNA, you will learn more about who we are at Redemption and what we do, and you will get to meet RC leaders and get directly connected to a Redemption Community. You can sign up at redaz.in/dnatempe.