Years ago when our oldest two children were our only two and only babies at that--and even before--my husband and I had a large circle of several close friends and it was wonderful.
We were raising our babies together, we shared meals together, we went to church together, we talked on the phone, we hung out, we did Bible study together, we went on vacation together. One friend and I shared clothes like sisters and even took a smocking class together. Our lives intertwined in friendship and fellowship and, yeah, lots of fun.
I had no idea what I was experiencing was unique. When my husband and I moved away from that city and that group of friends, I assumed I’d just as easily find another peer group that was equally as welcoming and friendly.
I was wrong.
True community is rare. The friendships we enjoyed all those years ago were based initially and perhaps mainly on our common stage of life but I’ve discovered that as the children grow older it is more and more difficult to maintain a friendship with even that in common.
True Biblical community is even more rare and becoming increasingly so. I just finished reading True Community: The Biblical Practice of Koinonia by Jerry Bridges. In this book that is encouraging and convicting and exciting, Bridges outlines the markers of true community, the most important being common communion with God through His Son Jesus Christ. The Lord joins us together as His church and it is there we find the fellowship and partnership we were made for.
In addition to our common faith, true community happens as we partner together on mission for the gospel, as we serve each other for the common good, as we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings, and, yes, of course, as we sit down together over a good meal. This kind of community can and should and will stretch across superficial commonality like age or stage of life or vocation or gender.
I look back on the community I enjoyed and loved twenty years ago with such nostalgia because it was not the norm. It was a unique and beautiful stage of my life that I miss in many ways. Don’t get me wrong, I know community, Biblical community, in my current church and among my current group of friends both real and virtual and I am profoundly, humbly grateful. But it lacks the ease and the openness I once knew.
Community is harder now, I think, because of the demands of our busy lives and because of the distractions of social media. We didn’t have all the expectations of Pinterest thrust upon us. There were no mommy blogs telling us what good moms did and didn’t do. We didn’t know the tyranny of email and Facebook and Twitter. I mean, the only social media I engaged in at the time was talking on the phone. Yeah, me. For real. Now I never do.
True community may be rare and the forces of our culture stacked against it but that only means it is all the more imperative we pursue real, true, and open community, the sort of community that sees and serves another. One of the first things we can do in this pursuit is put down our smartphones and focus on people over Facebook. I’m serious. Few things communicate a lack of engagement, a lack of community, than attention focused on your phone, whether that is the intention or not. Body language speaks volumes. Could you, when you are out and about and with someone else, put the phone away and ignore technology's demands? Could I? Let’s try.
Regardless of whether your phone stays in your purse or not, let’s be about people, about sharing, and about serving. Let's talk. Let’s engage others. Let’s hang out both with our friends and those not yet our friends. Let’s pursue Biblical friendship and community. As we do so we bring glory to the Savior who loved us and brought us to communion with Him.