Created and Recreated for Community
Sometimes I overanalyze how I should act. My mind flies into top gear particularly when I’m forming new relationships in a new community and my new friends are hard to read. “Ok that’s too shy… Now, that’s too forward, Taylor; back off… Ugh, you’re talking too much… Now you’re silent; don’t be awkward!” Maybe you’re smoother than I am, but I bet the understanding that community takes work innately speaks to you as well.
We’d both admit that deep down we know we’re called to work at community. We were made for it. Still, we also realize that there are barriers that keep us from the closeness in a group we desire. There are fears that keep me analyzing and what I need is the reminder of the hope. We have hope because God’s work brings us to community.
Created to Relate
God didn’t make people because he was lonely, though the internet will tell you so. (The internet will tell you all kinds of crazy things.) God has always existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God lives in community. The Father has always loved the Son, and the Son has always loved the Father. In delight, they created so that now many sons and daughters would relate and join into relationship with them. As God loves community and relating, so he created us to be bearing his image, reflecting what he is like in many ways. One of those ways we resemble his character is how he designed us to relate to others. We were made for community. It’s part of living as the Imago Dei.
We were made to interact, to relate, to run our thoughts by someone. We are created to be a team and work together. This is why we love our dear friends and delight in being with them. We were designed for tight relationships, for fellowship, for companionship. And there’s a more specific kind of relating that this passage leads us towards.
The poetic passage of Genesis 1:26-27 begins with “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and ends with God making them in His image, clarifying that it was male and female that He made. The construction of the verses makes it clear that there is a relationship between male and female that somehow completes the idea of “let us make man in our image.” It shows an equality in men and women, both being those images of God.
The chapters in Genesis continue to point to this community in marriage between Adam and Eve. “Alone” was not “good,” and God graciously created another who was distinct and unified them in marriage. Together, corporately, they express the image of God, and together they serve him.
But this corporate expression of image bearers isn’t only in marriage by any means. It’s together as male and female humans, not just husbands and wives, that we bear God’s image. And like a jewel, image bearing includes a variety of facets that point to the character of God. Relating in community is one piece. It’s a piece that means our longing for community is innate and very good.
Recreated for the Church
Like distorted mirrors, our image bearing imperfectly reflects God’s character after the entrance of sin to the world. Yet God in his goodness is reforming us into the image of his Son, the perfect image bearer. (2 Cor. 3:18) This recreation act that God does in us changes us… and it changes our communities.
The phrase feels like a naked emperor when displayed over pretty Instagram pictures.
But our desire for right community can be confused. I see the moto “we belong to one another” flash across my social media feeds pretty often. I’m drawn to the concept with my hopes of community. I think many are, but, ultimately, it feels shallow and phony when written by someone with thousands of followers whose comments likely won’t be read. The phrase feels like a naked emperor when displayed over pretty Instagram pictures.
But we weren’t remade for an online feel-good community-- We were remade for the Church. We’re that hand and foot and eye that are united to one body. Though we have fears and questions, we truly are members of one another in the Church. (Rom. 12:5) We do belong to one another. This is the community we were designed for that begins now and lasts forever. (Rev. 21)
And because of what God has done in our justification, our community is radically different from the world. Bryan Chapell puts it like this, “Because all those in union with Christ are becoming more like him the differences among them should melt away… Not only should our conduct towards one another reflect Christ’s purity and integrity, but the pride and partiality that mark our differences should also disappear.” As the family of God, we are known by our Father not because of what we’ve done, but because of his grace towards us in Jesus Christ. The Father may discipline us, but he will never stop loving us and never stop being our Father. So in this family, though there may be hard times, we are bound by the grace given to each of us.
Hope in Community
So my insecurities may raise their head. I may be legitimately annoying. Or I may just overanalyze everything. But at the end of the day, I can know that I was wired for community as I reflect the goodness of God. It’s worth working for.
And while it may be hard work, there is a supernatural work happening among us as God is reforming his people. As we are united with Jesus, we become more like him, and our separating differences shrink. The grace that has changed each of us binds us together, and God is committed to this work of unifying his people. (John 17:11)
So the next time you’re chatting with a new friend after church and you feel the conversation getting awkward, don’t panic. If you’re having coffee with someone and you realize you are completely misunderstanding each other, take heart. The Lord had designed you both for community. He is the God who can do anything, even raise the dead. There is hope in this work.