“Despite inherent difficulties, mankind cannot function properly without community. Trying to go without it is like trying to survive without food: not possible.”
Written by Abigail Croft
Community can be a scary, difficult thing. It requires honesty and time—two things which we don’t like to give very much of. Moreover, we don’t always know what to expect from community and opening up about personal struggles is hard. Especially as students, finding the time to balance school, extracurriculars, family and church can feel like an impossible juggling act. In light of these struggles, it may seem appealing to avoid community altogether. But that is not how God called—or designed us—to live.
Everyone has a different story, but there are some common reasons why we don’t engage in community. This article will discuss three (fear due to negative past experiences, pride and apathy) in hopes of revealing just how valuable community can be.
First, fear as a result of negative past experiences is a real and common thing. Whether it was from a previous church, disappointing relationships or more severe emotional injury, people generally don’t want to do life with other Christians out of fear of getting hurt. However, community is an example of when the benefits outweigh the risks. Pain is part of the process for we must be stretched before we can truly grow. Moreover, as broken humans, we are going to sin against one another. Although our offenses are likely unintentional, we must understand that community is made up of fallen individuals, so therefore grace will be necessary.
Despite inherent difficulties, mankind cannot function properly without community. Trying to go without it is like trying to survive without food: not possible. Therefore, we cannot let our fears and anxieties about community hinder us from it. John 14:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Like oil and water, fear and love do not mix. We simply cannot let fear be the reason that we miss out on something God designed us for. Thankfully, good and necessary things such as love and community don’t stop being so just because humans mess them up. Perfect love (aka God) is more than capable of driving out fear.
Another reason that we avoid community is out of pride. Misplaced self-confidence keeps us from believing that we actually need other Christians. For example, I don’t like to admit that I have needs in general and I definitely don’t like to admit that I need other people to help me manage those needs. This attitude is sin and I need to repent of it actively. While our culture screams the false doctrine of self-reliance, we can’t successfully function this way. No one can navigate life properly—especially when seeking to grow in a relationship with God—without other people. There is no one (even the strongest person you know) who has lived without receiving help in one way or another. On the other hand, community cannot just be about getting help for yourself; it’s a two-way street of walking through life together where giving and receiving should travel in both directions. Because we need people (and other people need us too!), we cannot let pride keep us from admitting that we require community.
Another side of the pride coin is related more to selfishness. We pride ourselves on busyness, which must be constantly tended to, and we fail to invest in relationships that impact eternity. I’m much too prone to use the selfish excuse that it will take too much time and effort to invest in a relationship so I won’t pursue it at all. That’s also sin and I need to repent continually. In our busy American lives, it seems like time is always something we are short of. However, (this is something I need to remind myself of!) priorities must be put in the right place and that means God’s order, not ours. Jesus says in John 13:35 that “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love another.” How can we display the love of Christ—and therefore prove to the watching world that we are His disciples—without being in community?
Finally, another reason that we may avoid community is due to apathy. I am growing increasingly familiar with this word and I don’t like it—another reason why I need to be in community, even when I don’t feel like doing so. The fact of the matter is: community is hard. But it’s necessary. This is what I need to remind myself of when I struggle to do what I know should be a priority. God has designed us to do life together, evident when He said in Genesis 2:18 “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.” God admonishes us in the New Testament also to continue faithfully in community. Hebrews 10:25 says “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I speak from experience when I say that community—having people to walk with me through my struggles, helping me navigate life when I need it most—is such a wonderful blessing that I would have missed out completely had I succumbed to apathy.
High school was hard, and college is actually harder. When I look back on the mental and physical health battles that I struggled (or am currently struggling) with, I know that community made a big difference. I learned so much more of what God was trying to teach me because faithful men and women in my life were gracious enough to help me understand. I was challenged to continue in obedience, to grow in new areas such as evangelism, even when I was having trouble with joy. All of these reasons to not be a part of community were real for me as well but God’s provision is greater.