by Dan McNerney, Associate Director
Jesus never wanted anyone to be alone. When He noticed a lame beggar outside the temple grounds, He healed him and said, “Come follow me.” When He passed by a leper colony, He entered their gate, recognizing and healing the marginalized people of his society. He talked with over-worked and often abused women when they went to the well at noon alone to draw water. He even knew that rich people were trapped by their wealth, often lonely and craving regular human contact. For these reasons and many more, Jesus created community wherever He went. He knew the last thing the human soul needed was to be alone. Everything Jesus taught can be boiled down to one central message: all people need to be actively connected to God and each other. Everyone needs community.
The pandemic has affected each of us in different ways. Hundreds of days have been filled with grief and isolation. We have been covering our faces with masks, avoiding people on sidewalks, even frightened at times to be in the same room with family members. To say we have been nervous and jumpy is an understatement. We have been on edge and often alone. We have become battered souls—somewhat off-balance, a bit awkward, often unsure, sometimes dazed, hurt and confused. We have not had normal human interchange for a long time. Many of us have forgotten how to converse freely with others and know how to be an active, helpful member of a community. Often our minds are suspicious; our fists are up, rather than our arms open.
Jesus never did things alone. Yes, He pulled away periodically to be secluded with the Father in retreat and prayer, but otherwise He was constantly hanging out with his family or disciples, enjoying their fellowship. He taught His disciples how important it was to reach out to the neglected and forgotten people in their society, to invite them into their community. In that same spirit, He confronted members of His society who promoted power, burdens, exclusion, division and privilege. Left alone, the human soul turns on itself and becomes vulnerable to the attacks of evil—Satan himself. For this reason, Jesus was constantly confronting evil spirits in people, driving them away with the power of His love and grace.
Jesus spent a lot of time teaching His disciples the value of being united in community. Being in community means that at times you may disagree with someone, but you learn how to get along. It is not always easy. Decisions need to be made with a great deal of self-control and listening skills. Working towards reconciliation, common agreement or peacemaking takes a lot of hard work, faith and prayer. Jesus was constantly teaching, forgiving, rebuking and challenging His disciples. We all need a mentor, counselor or group of friends to meet with on a regular basis, to help us grow in our faith. Being or living together in community is what is most important. The Apostle Paul said it best when he wrote the following to the new believers in Corinth: “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit…our bodies have many parts…how strange would it be if it had only one part…The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you,’” (1 Corinthians 12: 12-13,18a, 21 NLT).
The point is we need each other daily–desperately. We have an opportunity now to say to God in prayer: “Lord, we have learned our lesson. We have discovered where the excesses of independence, isolation, and self-sufficiency can take us. We never knew it could be so challenging, debilitating, or ugly. We are ready to start over, retreat from those pathways, and do a lot more to include you and others in our daily lives. We realize that being in community is a lot of hard work, but we are ready to engage. May you use us as instruments of your peace, grace and healing for those people and families, including ourselves, who have been injured or disheartened by the pandemic.”