As Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve counted down the drop of the 12,000 pound sparkling ball of crystals, none of us had any idea the challenges that 2020 would bring to our country. Soon the pandemic would sweep over the population like a dark cloud, and life as we know it, would drastically change. Businesses shut down, shelter-in-place orders, professional sports on hold, Disney World closed, parents becoming homeschool teachers, work from home directives and thousands of people ill altering nearly all societal norms. The experience of community within a communal society would suddenly become a health hazard as social distancing evolved into a colloquial term and method of practice.
Had I written about “community” in 2019, the context and conversation would be much different than it is now. The concept of community looks markedly different considering the new normal we find ourselves in and the ever-changing life at a distance. Yet, many things remain the same. Even despite our 6-feet mandates, government guidances on gathering size and our cancelled parties, we can see now, possibly more than ever, how we were meant to live in community with one another.
I always love to review the creation story in Genesis 1-2 —so poetically it reveals much about our purposeful design. “In the beginning, God created…” doesn’t it just sound like an epic movie, a mysterious start? It draws me in, beckoning me to find out more about this Creator God. And what I find is that the Hebrew word used for God is “Elohim” which is in the plural form but a singular verb is always used with it. It connotes a multiplicity within oneness—the idea of the Trinity spelled out directly in the name of God, Elohim. Later on in Genesis 1:26 God says “Let us make man in our image.” Another explicit hint that the Godhead is comprised of more than one. Those who have grown up in the faith, have always heard of the Trinity, but something sets my soul on fire, when I realize that within the creation story there is evidence that God, Himself, was communal. It is out of that communal fellowship that mankind was made—not out of scarcity but out of overflow from a the love between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We were made to live in community, not only with each other but with our God. He has, from the very start, made us relational and desired companionship with us. What a beautiful and loving God?! We, as image-bearers, also find ourselves made for that same fellowship with Him and with others. Even Adam was told that, “it is not good for the man to be alone” Genesis 2:19.”
In a time marked with necessary distancing for our safety, we feel the desire to connect, spend time and simply be with one another in the same room. The yearning is strong and the need is innate. It is how we were made—it is how God, Himself, operates. And even though, many probably wouldn’t mind a little alone time from screaming children, annoying spouses and clustered living, the truth is we need each other, and we need God. We always have; we always will.
This is why the church is so relevant, still. The idea of church is not simply for a good sermon, fun music and Bible study, it is also because of the communal aspect. The church is a family outside of family—a group to do life with, grow with, cry with, laugh with and help each other out. Hebrews 10:25 sends a charge, “Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have made a habit, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Even in the midst of quarantine, there are zoom small groups and online sermons, texts of encouragements and drive-by car parades of hope. Why? Because we still need each other to learn and love. When the early church received the Holy Spirit, it revived their hearts towards sincerity of faith. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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. (Acts 2:42-47) As the early church lived life together, they love of Christ manifested within their community and reached many for the Kingdom of God.
In quarantine life, community looks quite different. We can’t even buy bread in some places, let alone break it, but God’s love is not confined by the limitations of our norm. As we innovate to virtual church, and masked fellowship, we have learned the importance of a call, the necessity of a human presence and the soul-lifting power of a hug. We are learning that these precious blessings are something to rejoice over and treasure dearly. Nothing can be taken for grant it. We have seen God work in and through the virtual realm in ways to spread the gospel to hearers who might have never stepped foot in a physical church building.
God is unchanging. The same God who created us out of community, works through pandemic pandemonium, calling us towards fellowship with Him and our families in the halt of life. Many people are grappling with so much—sickness, job loss, fear, depression, loneliness, and uncertainty—but this we know: God wants relationship with every single soul. I don’t know what battles you’ve had to suffer these past couple months, but I know that whether you are in the calm of the storm or the eye of the torrent, God created you to live in community, first with Him and second, with others. If Satan is using the circumstances of life to increase loneliness and deplete joy, seek community. Call up a friend, zoom in to a small group—use every portal available to fellowship with others. But most importantly, talk to God. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7)
By Rebecca Greenfield