Community at its best involves direct and immediate relationships: eye to eye, face to face, heart-to-heart. It is more than a group of people living in the same geographical area. It is deeper than those who share common interests or characteristics that set them apart from the population at large, e.g. the business community.
Community originated in God. The most common name for God in the Old Testament is Elohim, which in Hebrew means a Plurality of God. God is named in both Testaments as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They are seen at work in creation and at simultaneously working in the baptism of Jesus when God speaks and the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove.
This does not mean the Bible teaches Tritheism, which is belief in three gods. Deuteronomy 6:4 is the earliest confession of the oneness of God. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
The Bible rejects the concept of Unitarianism, which denies the divinity of Jesus the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Modalism, which says that God appears sometimes as the Father, sometimes as the Son and sometimes as the Holy Spirit, like an actor changing masks, affirms the Christian faith as monotheistic. Unfortunately, it denies the Trinity.
The Church Fathers met in 325 at the Council of Nicaea to set out an orthodox biblical definition concerning the divine identity, which the Council of Constantinople completed in 381. God is uniquely one even as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct only in relation to each other.
Because God knew and experienced community, He made us to do the same. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The image of God reflected in women and men include the characteristics of reason, morality, love and commitment, and creativity in all forms of art. However, the most overlooked part of this likeness may be community.
Our feelings of self-sufficiency and personal independence may be equated by society with success, but they are totally foreign to the Trinity that exists in interdependent oneness of community. Our creation in the image of God establishes our need to be one in community. Jesus himself has said: “That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us”.
Living in community first with God then with others is transformative. It is both the end and the means to that end.
Paul describes this goal and process late in his letter to believers in Rome. Hope springs in part from promoting the well-being of others as we help each other become more like Jesus Christ. Unity is a gift from God which allows Christ followers to speak with one heart and mouth, that is, without dissent. Finally, community makes us accepting. As God accepted us when we were imperfect, so we accept other imperfect people into community. God loves us and expects us to love others just as they are. In addition, he calls us to love others enough not to leave them where they are. Some issues we must go to the mat over, but not over every disagreement. Paul tells the believers in the area of Galatia “if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” There is no “doormat” understanding here.
What community of faith are you part of? Where are you working under the guidance and empowering of the Holy Spirit to gently build up and promote the well-being of others as they do the same for you? God is calling everyone to recognize the image each is created to reflect and grow into.