Out of the 50+ houses in our subdivision, about three of them hold front porches. In the warm spring evenings, a stroll through the area will produce little-to-no contact with neighbors, as people are either inside or out on their back decks. Sometimes the subdivision can feel more like a ghost town.
But just one generation ago, people did life in a more community-oriented nature. My mom and her family were committed members of a church in the greater St. Louis area. It’s morphed into a larger congregation, but my Grandma still remains devoted and involved, having taught Sunday school for years. My mom and dad had over 700 people at their wedding, because their church families were so vast, and they were a part of a deeper understanding of community. My mom still has close bonds to the families she grew up with in that town.
Today, even though we are more globally “connected” than ever, people isolate themselves and avoid regularly face-to-face interactions. Sadly, we’re too busy networking contacts and conquering the world to sit outside over a glass of iced tea and just shoot the breeze.
About a month or so ago, an older couple moved in across the street from us. Although Aaron had met them on afternoon while both were working in their respective yards, the kids and I hadn’t made direct introductions. Despite that, Mr. and Mrs. Watson would regularly sit outside their front door (no porch, but a paved part of their driveway) and wave and smile generously. We’d always return the wave and drive on.
One day Madeline decided she wanted to take our neighbors something. She baked them some chocolate cake cookies, and her Grammy and I walked over to their house to welcome them to the neighborhood. Ironically, I think we felt more welcomed in return. They told us a little of their story and their families and asked us questions. The wife gave Maddie a hug like she was one of her own grandchildren and invited us over to pick strawberries from their patch or sit on their porch swing.
They’d been trying to find a church they could get connected to, and had been attending our congregation for a couple of weeks. Their only major reservation was the size (our church runs close to 2,000).
The 75-year-old D Watson lamented how challenging it would be to find true community in such an overwhelming situation. They had moved away from a church with fewer people and everyone truly was family. I had no answer for them, other than encouraging them to be a part of a smaller community group.
Authentic and lasting community comes through the Body of Christ. Fully loving our neighbor follows on the heals of loving the Lord. He is the One that imparts the will and ability to selflessly love and commit to people. So, we can only love others rightly when we are aligned with God and His principles.
Dallas Willard says, “His [God’s] intent is for us to learn to mesh our kingdom with the kingdom of others. Love of neighbor, rightly understood, will make this happen. But we can only love adequately by taking as our primary aim the integration of our rule with God’s” (The Divine Conspiracy 26).
Perhaps that’s why community has diminished over the years: we’ve let go of our submission to God’s ruling authority. Consequently, other relationships have crumbled as well.
Harmony and community come when we humbly submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and allow His Spirit to unify us. (Eph. 4:3)
I John 1:7a, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,”
Acts 2:46-47, “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!”