This morning before running out of my apartment for my day of work/study/life in Asia, a dear friend and brother in the faith called me just to check in. Rankin Wilbourne is the pastor of a wonderful church in Los Angeles. The church is growing fast and so is his family (two kids and one more on the way).
Rankin (and his wonderful wife Morgen) looks out for me. He cares for and prays for me. I do the same for him (and his wonderful wife Morgen. . . and children). Rankin and Morgen would drop what they are doing in an instant were I to need them, big or small. For now, he simply calls regularly on the way home from work just to let me know that he is praying for me. This is big and greatly appreciated.
I am blessed beyond measure by being in community. I have friends and family around the world who are constantly looking out for me, as I am them. Whether here in Asia or back in the States, I am part of a wonderful, committed community of friends and family who honestly desire and work towards each other’s good.
Through this simply phone call, I was reminded of this reality. . . in life, community is vital. You can live as an “island to yourself”, but be assured that your quality of life will be poor.
Everything about us and our lives points us towards living within community, yet we often fight against this.
- We were created by our God, as dependent beings.
- We were brought into this world by parents and into a family (preferably).
- We were raised by parents. We were educated in schools (most of us anyway).
- Eventually, we will be taken care of by others when we are too old to do so for ourselves.
Our lives are book-ended by imposed (and good) community. However, most of us, for the bulk of our time between youth and extreme elderly status, are determined to live as autonomous people.
Part of our individual push towards personal autonomy is cultural. We all dream of being a “self-made man”. We don’t want to depend on anyone for anything. Some of this is good. We are called to be good stewards of our individual lives, talents, and resources. However, our culture often pushes us towards a wrong ideal that teaches us that to be dependent upon ANYONE is a bad thing. This is false.
Part of this push towards personal autonomy is selfish. We want to be able to say “I did this on my own!” I accomplished this. I made this. I raised this family. No one helped me. The old Frank Sinatra song, “I Did it My Way” is indicative of this attitude.
The Bible, on the other hand, always assumes we are in community. . . a community of people for whom we both serve and are served by. Our identity as human beings, Biblically speaking, is all about “we” and very little about “I”. Every part of the Bible was written to and for groups of people, not necessarily individual persons. The Bible was clearly meant to teach, edify, and equip individuals as well, but each section was written to groups of people.
Ephesians was written to the Church at Ephesus. The Gospel of Luke was written to the body of Christians in Rome. Genesis was written to the Hebrew people. Even the books 1-3 Timothy, which were written to an individual, were meant to be read by and taught to the entire church. You get my point.
Additionally, the New Testament refers to us Christians in three ways: 1) the body of Christ, 2) the family of God, and 3) the kingdom of God. All of these speak to the fact that we ARE A COMMUNITY.
With all this said, I am grateful that God has made things work the way they do. I do take pride, occasionally, in individual accomplishments and goals met. However, what I most cherish about life is not the “I” part of life, but rather the “we” part.
I am grateful God has called us out of a life completely fixated upon “me”. How much money will I make? How high in the org chart will I rise? This part of life is fine, but not as an end in an of itself. If this is our primary focus in life, it will eventually leave us wanting and spiritually bankrupt.
I am eternally grateful God has called us all into a life of “we”. I am grateful for this “we” life where I have brothers and sister of mutual commitment and love, even though many of them were not born of Wyman and Kay Gunter. Siblings like Rankin and Morgen.
My biological family is wonderful. I could not be happier to be a Gunter. I love them more than I can express. However, I am even more grateful for being a member of this grand and glorious tribe which spans all nations and nationalities. . . this tribe named the family of God, the body of Christ.
Autonomy is over-rated and severely lacking. Community is eternally better.
(For a related article, you might want to read Community, relationships, and other thoughts on loneliness. . . )