Christians are obsessed with marriage.
I mean, there’s a little bit of proof right there in the first sentence. The very fact that I’m starting an article about community by talking about marriage- reinforces this truth.
But seriously, think about all the relationship books out there. How many can you think of that are dedicated to love, marriage, or dating (yep, mine included). It’s a sort of litmus test that reveals to us how much we value and talk about certain relationships. Somehow, we’ve fallen prey to the destructive mindset of seeing marriage as the relationship of utmost importance in the body of Christ (after our relationship with Jesus, that is).
But what about the other SIGNIFICANT relationships that God calls us into? What about our relationships with other believers and the many people he’s placed into our lives? What about mentor-ship, discipleship, and friendship? These relationships are ones we’re called into, no matter what our romantic “relationship status” might be. I don’t believe these relationships get enough attention in the Church, even though Scripture says just as much and even MORE about these kinds of interpersonal relationships than it does about romantic relationships.
So what’s the deal? If Christian community is so important, why does it get so neglected?
1. We live in a culture that values independence. We’re raised to believe that being able to achieve without need for others is the highest level of power and success. It’s the “do it yourself” mentality that seeps into our church and pollutes the way we live our lives. We shy away from asking for help, exposing our needs, and getting vulnerable with one another. We don’t want people to see our weaknesses, know our hurts, or even get a glimpse of our tears. We’re really good at putting on the happy face, getting through with an “I don’t need anyone” attitude, when really- often times we’re desperately lonely on the inside.
We hold on to this approach through life, yet all through Scripture we see God calling us to a much different way of living. He tells us to forget about our independence, and consider what it means to live a life of INTER-dependence on one another as the body of Christ; loving each other, caring for each other, comforting and encouraging one another. As I look through God’s word, I see so many insightful reasons for why relationships with others are so important to our personal and spiritual health (I’m going to tackle 10 specific reasons in an article I’m posting later this week.) And it makes sense, because God KNEW we would need each other. Maybe we just need to start acknowledging it for ourselves.
2. We tend to neglect community because we seem to view marriage as the ONLY representation of Christ and His Church. We talk about experiencing this deep intimacy in marriage (and rightly so) yet all the while neglecting to see the intimacy and sanctification that is offered through our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ! The truth is, there are many relationships through which we can experience the deep love of Jesus Christ. Our brotherhood and sisterhood as believers is one of the richest opportunities that God gives us to get a glimpse of His love and selflessness!
Jesus Himself tells us that there is no love greater than one who is willing to lay down his life for a friend- just as HE did for us. He reminds us that a friend sharpens a friend like iron sharpens iron. And you know that verse that we often quote when we’re talking about marriage that says two are better than one? Well believe it or not- in Scripture, it’s actually referring to the importance of friendship! We desperately need community, because through it our hearts are opened to the sharpening, the encouragement, and the intimacy that comes with being a part of something really, really, significant. Something far beyond ourselves.
Everyday we are called to becoming more like Jesus…and community is one of the ways that we are invited to do so. So, how does that look in your life?
As we look at the topic of community this entire week, I challenge you to read through the posts and ask yourself how deeply you’ve allowed yourself to connect with the people God has placed in your life? What are you hesitant about? What has been holding you back? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!