For western Christians, especially Americans, the personal nature of the faith is quite real. We receive Jesus as our personal Savior and our churches emphasize private devotional time where the group breaks up into individuals, each reading their own Bible and praying. However, it is long held in the Christian tradition that next to God in importance is fellowship with one another in the community of believers. In an era where community is breaking down socially, emotionally, and even technologically, we must be intentional about forming what used to be natural and easy social connections.

In the world’s wealthiest countries, especially the US, it’s common for people to live in their own houses. Children often have individual rooms, one for each child, and parents often have their own lawn to mow, their houses distanced from neighbors. There are, however, many more communities that do not function this way, especially in highly populated cities or low-income regions. In much of the world, close-knit communities are a part of the survival of the individual. Thus, in these communities, faith is not only individual, but communal – as are many other parts of life. People pray for one another, talk to each other, rely on their friends, and relish in communal connection.

But what, we might ask, is God’s will for the church? Are these lifestyles merely the consequences of circumstance, or is there a richer Christian faith to be found in tighter communities? We know that Christ prayed to the Father in John 17:21 that believers would be one as He is with the Father. He also said that we would be known as His disciples by our love for one another in John 13:35. Our Lord also stated that we are called to a higher love than what is natural for those controlled by the power of Satan, those not in the New Covenant. He said that we should love beyond sinful human capability; we should love those that don’t love us (Matthew 5:46). It wouldn’t be surprising if we loved just our friends. Even sinners love those who love them!

What does this mean for Christians? Be proactive in your love! Don’t wait for someone to love you before you reach out to love them. When God is drawing you toward someone, reach out and take a chance. If they hate you, love them still. Did Jesus not do this in the very act of becoming human? How many have rejected Him in all the Gospel’s preaching? And yet He, knowing this beforehand in His omniscience, still reached down and became a human. God’s love does not wait on a response. His love is immovable, unchanging from age to age. With a God who is eternally three Persons, unconditionally pouring love out for each other with no strings attached, what should our response be? Go to that person sitting on the end of the pew, the person that has never been to church, and the person who hates the church. Get to know them. Reach out to them. Be Jesus. This is community. This is Love!

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