Do you live in community? Because I know all too well what it’s like not to. When I was in law school we lived in a high-rise apartment. My husband was doing his residency — he worked all the time and I studied more than I ever thought I could. We had a handful of friends, but our closest friends lived about a half-hour away and we saw each other a couple times a month, maybe. I didn’t know my neighbors, and although I liked many of my classmates, I wasn’t very close to any of them. We were faithful church attenders but were not in a small group.
Now, twelve years later, I am blessed to be part of a number of tight knit, caring communities. My boys attend a very small school; its aim, in part, is to develop a community of learners. Parent participation is expected to a high degree and this fosters relationships at every level. Will has been there since the middle of kindergarten when we moved back from Florida, and so this is his sixth year with the same kids. He not only knows these kids well, but he knows every parent, and every parent knows him. And I know every kid and every parent. Their school is one example, and there are others — surely, there are innumerable ways to build community. But I hope you know the blessing of living alongside others in an intentional way. And I’m not talking about Facebook friends, or people you talk to now and then. I’m talking about people who hug you, share a meal with you, make eye contact with you, hold you to account, encourage you — people who do some of the same things you do, people you can see day in and day out. May we all be intentional about building and maintaining true community.
Paul persecuted Christians before he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. The rest of his life was marked by incredible devotion to carrying out the will of God. He often wrote to his fellow believers about taking care of one another (if you search an online Bible you will find lots and lots of “one another” verses). But perhaps my favorite Paul “another” verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:11: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up” (ESV).
So I leave you with two questions: (1) Who is encouraging you and building you up? and (2) Who are you encouraging and building up?
May we all have ready answers for both these questions.