Today the gym in which I work out announced that a 25 year old member had died Tuesday in a car accident. Please pray for the family and friends of Victoria Moore. She attended a different class than the one I normally attend, so I don't think I had ever met her, but perhaps once. The language of the announcement was familiar to that of many organizations, including churches: "our community lost one of its own." Those words are significant, and they carry with them a challenge to each of us, an echo of a deep hope, and a theological meaning as well.
The challenge concerns our meaning of community, and our level of participation in community. You can probably see the obvious: while I am a part of the CrossFit community in this area, my level of connection and participation never brought me into any kind of meaningful connection with this young woman whose life is now tragically ended. I have other connections at the gym: acquaintances, friends, and some fairly close relationships as well. In those interactions CrossFit really is a community for me. Complete isolation, on the other hand, would seem to stand in opposition to community.
Questions emerge, then, for all of us who follow Jesus. In what ways is the church a community for you? You can't know everyone well, but are there one or two, or a few? How is your part in the community expressed in your participation? In what other ways do you express the value of community in your life?
Whenever someone speaks of a group as a community, I believe they are also expressing a deep and abiding human hope. We want our neighborhoods to be communities. We want our gyms and scrapbook clubs to offer relationship. We hope for churches to bring us into meaningful contact with others. We live our lives under the influence of twin forces: individuality and togetherness. We yearn for both. We hope for a place where we know and are known.
Finally, a theological perspective: our hope for community is rooted in the Trinity, the perfect community of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In this community, a mystery to us, we see complete transparency, absolute trust, and thorough communication. If we are, as we believe, created in the image of God, then our yearning for both individuality and community is part of the expression of the imago dei.
Like many other words, community can mean many things, or nothing at all. But when we use the word, we're facing a challenge, revealing a hope, and expressing the imprint of a divine image.