Commitment to Community
Do you ever feel lonely? Do you wish you had more people to celebrate with when good things happen? Or do you find yourself grieving alone? Suffering alone?
Adult life can be isolating at times. It’s funny…as children, friendships just sort of grew on trees, but once the busyness of life crowds in and we get married, buy homes, have children of our own, or build careers, it’s harder to make time for something that was once as natural as breathing. A simple “Hey you, wanna be friends?” on the playground is a thing of the past.
It turns out loneliness is bad for our health. Research dating back to the 1960s states that people with fewer social connections die younger than those who have more extensive networks, regardless of physical health, socioeconomic status, smoking, obesity, and other important factors.
Enter social media, the cure for loneliness! In our busy, frenetic lives, social media may seem the answer. But unfortunately, social media has made it possible for community, of all things, to be individualized. It’s now a thing we do alone, in isolation, on our devices. When we’re online, the human element is literally taken out of the equation. We no longer have faces with emotions, but avatars with emojis. Online communities can be a beautiful thing if they are used to supplement or enhance “in real life” community, not replace it.
Furthering the dilemma, our culture tells us, “when the going gets tough, just bail.” If the friendship isn’t “serving” you like it once did, let it go. If the marriage is getting too difficult…maybe it’s just “not right for you” anymore. These sentiments may seem, at first, like good advice. No one wants to be stuck in a relationship that’s one-sided! But these messages take us away from relationships and community, not towards it.
Isn’t it great that Jesus has a better way for us to live?
Following the way of Jesus means to live in community. To actually show up with our bodies. To readily serve the physical, emotional, and relational needs of others, not just ourselves. And in turn, we are served by others. A wonderful, reciprocal system.
How do we know Jesus wants us to live this way? For starters, he established the church, a great big family with all the potential for drama as your actual family. He had not one but twelve close friends – his disciples – that he spent loads of time with. (And that’s not counting the women disciples!)
The scriptures portray Jesus living closely, openly, and honestly with his followers. He walked through the joys and the sorrows of life, just like us, but never alone. That’s the kind of life he wants for us. Sounds lovely, right? It is. But also challenging. Exposing. Frustrating at times.
Jesus modeled how to live in community for us. And it all starts with commitment.
Commitment is essential to healthy community. It gives space for the slow, steady growth of friendships. It creates stability, safety, and security. And, commitment is the soil in which vulnerability can grow (we’ll get to that later).
Flaking on plans or connecting every now and then is ok with a casual friend. But true community is consistent. Fuller. Richer. Harder. But it lasts longer. It supports us during the storms of life, and gives us an opportunity to support others during theirs. It creates deeper bonds and lasting relationships that – we believe – are the essence of what Jesus had in mind.
So, how can we do this? How can we commit to community when our lives are already so full?
We must make it a priority. This is the nature of commitment. If we don’t prioritize community, we will lose it, eventually.
Prioritizing, by nature, means that some things will rise to the top of the list and others will fall to the bottom. It may mean cutting things out of your life to make room for your community. It will likely mean saying “no” to other events or activities in order to meet with your group. It may mean showing up when you really just want to watch a show and go to bed early. It may mean cooking dinner and hosting in your home, or having your kids up a little later one night of the week. But it’s worth it. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort.” This is never more true than in close and lasting relationships.
As you consider what you’ve just read, take a moment to reflect on the following questions:
- In the past, have you often found yourself feeling hesitant or reluctant to join a small group?
- Do you frequently feel a sense of anxiety or unease when sharing or being vulnerable with others?
- Have you noticed a pattern of avoiding or canceling plans? (Or are you glad when plans get canceled?)
- How do you typically handle conflicts or disagreements in your relationships? Are you willing to work through them and find a resolution, or do you often consider walking away instead?
- Can you identify any specific reasons or underlying fears that hinder you from having deeper / closer relationships?
- How comfortable are you with the idea of making sacrifices or compromises for the sake of a relationship, be it a spouse, friend, or family member?