Community is a hard subject for me. I’m extremely introverted. I like to be alone. My favorite vacation is sitting at home with a book or netflix. So when Christians talk about community, I feel a little claustrophobic. The thought of being around people all the time makes my blood pressure rise. In all honesty, community has negative connotations for me. I think of conformity, going with the crowd, changing who you are to fit in. I think of robots marching in tune to some monotonous beat. In the darkest parts of my mind, I think of community as a prison. Is this the vision Jesus had for community? Of course not! Society has drummed that image into my head. So now I’m on the hunt for a true definition and picture of community. Is there such a thing as a community that embraces the individuality of each person instead of diminishes it?
What started my questioning was the story of Lazarus. In John 11, we have Lazarus’ story. If you don’t know the story, read it in John 11:1-44. In short, Lazarus was sick and eventually died of his illness. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus. Jesus came around after he had been dead four days to see the family. Jesus was very upset by this news. In the story, there is a whole community surrounding this grieving family. They follow Mary to Jesus who then goes to the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus says a short prayer to His father and then, with a loud voice, calls for Lazarus. Lazarus comes out hobbling. He is still bound in the graveclothes. Jesus orders the crowd to loose him.
The fact that he was still in his graveclothes stuck out to me. He needed the community to come around him and loose him. Was Lazarus freed from death? Yes. But he still needed help. It is interesting that Jesus orders the crowd to loose him. Surely, he could have done this himself. But possibly there is a deeper picture here. How many times have you gone to church and been prayed for? It creates a spiritual high, doesn’t it? But after a day or two, you’re back where you started. What happened? It could be that you’re still in your “graveclothes”. You need the community to come around you and loose you. In the past, I wasn’t one for accountability groups/partners but I’m getting warmer to the idea. We need someone to take the graveclothes off of us.
For example, let’s look at addiction to pornography. Jesus has set you free from that. Please believe it. But you still have patterns and learned behaviors from that addiction. You still have your nightly rituals, your web history taunts you, you can no longer use it for stress relief. Those are your graveclothes. They can only be removed by getting involved in your community and confiding in a trusted friend.
If Lazarus had been raised from the dead with no one around, how long would he have remained in the grave? He might have died all over again! This happens when we try to go it alone. We get free for a little while but then succumb all over again. We get free for a little while, then succumb all over again. It’s a cycle. But when we have a community surrounding us, we can fully walk into the Light.
Sometimes God’s miracles are instantaneous and mind blowing. Other times, they are a slow burn. During these times, he uses other believers to work those miracles. We all have the fullness of God in us. Is it no wonder he uses us? We are powerful beyond imagining.
My quest for community is not yet finished of course. I still have a lot of questions. But hopefully I’m started on the right path.