I didn’t realize it at the time, but shortly after I decided to follow Jesus in college, I had the honor to be involved in the most significant experience of community that I have had to date in my life. A bunch of recent converts and recently re-energized Christians, a group of us in InterVarsity Christian fellowship at UCLA decided that we were going to take the words of scripture at face value and try to live them out (what a concept!).
And one of the concepts that resonated most clearly for us was community.
When Jesus died, rose again, visited around for forty days and then ascended to heaven, he still had some business to attend to. That business was the gift of the Holy Spirit which came on the day of the Pentecost. And what was the immediate response of those touched by this spirit? First, they proclaimed the gospel, but second, they banded together into a tight-knit community:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It is no accident that one of the first orders of business for the Holy Spirit was to go about forming community. For it is only in community that we can implement God’s call to love him and love our neighbor. It is in community that we are empowered to reach out beyond our community and love friend and enemy alike. In the same way that the Trinity models for us the giving, sacrificial love of the Godhead, so community allows us to live out that same giving, sacrificial love both to our immediate brothers and sisters inside community and to the greater world outside.
I’ve been largely frustrated in my pursuit of this ideal since graduating from college. Our world simply is not structured in such a way that community is easily found. We work across the city from one another, live in different neighborhoods, and are encouraged by the American Dream to do everything by ourselves – be an individual – or a nuclear family.
But even though the obstacles are great, I’m going to keep pursuing community in my life. That taste that I had in college was simply too good to give it up now.