Community: Why You Can’t Walk the Christian Journey Solo
Written by Ricky Jones
It is easy for me to fall into the mistake of trying to do everything on my own. It’s a problem I continue to battle with everyday. This applies to my work, my faith, and many other things. But what I have to do is realize that I meant to live in community, to love and be loved—just as God is an intimate union of three distinct persons caught in an eternal exchange of love. The truth is you can’t walk the Christian journey alone. We need each other, as much as I’d like to think otherwise.
Why Christians Need Community
Most of the letters in the New Testament are written by St. Paul and addressed either to specific people or church communities in which in most cases he seeks to exhort, instruct, challenge, and edify the recipients. Take the Thessalonians for example. In his first letter to this community St. Paul is encouraging them to keep up the good work. They have been more successful than others at living the Way, maintaining the life of holiness and grace.
“Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.”
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Even St. Paul in this letter is acknowledging the need for fraternity, fellowship, and community. As Christians we hold to the truth that we are part of the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. And as such we are tasked with the simple, yet seemingly impossible duty of loving each other unconditionally. Not love as an emotion or feeling, but as a conscious decision to will the good of the other.
So if I am to claim that you are my fellow brother, I must desire the best for you and act on that desire. If I am to love you I am to help you to become the best-version-of-yourself, to become a saint, this is true friendship. Through words of encouragement or acts of kindness I must strive to “build you up”.
God Works Through the Other
There are times when I grow weary and question whether or not I should continue writing these blog posts. But it is usually then that one of my friends and readers acknowledges my talent, thanks me for sharing it, and encourages me to keep up the good work. God knows when we need to be encouraged. It’s not an issue of pride here, but rather the living out of the idea of interpersonal edification.
“Iron is sharpened by iron; one person sharpens another.”
~ Proverbs 27:17
You’ve probably experienced this as well. Someone says something that catches you off-guard. It was just what you needed to hear at that moment and because of their words of encouragement, because of their selfless love, you find yourself lifted out of the darkness where you can once again see the light. They were God’s hand reaching down to help you up.
If God had wanted us to go it alone, He wouldn’t have left us the Church. Thank God for the Church. Thank you to all those brothers and sisters who through their words and actions in my life have lifted me up when I needed it. Thank God for using these people. What a blessing it is to see God at work.
“Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.”
~ Psalms 113 (cf. 1a, 7b)
Not to Discount Solitude
Just as a disclaimer I want to note that I’m certainly not saying that there isn’t a need in each of us for times of silence and solitude. I am in fact a huge proponent of getting away from the world and resting in God. We all need to retreat from the business and distractions of our daily lives if even for just a few moments in order to be spiritually recharged and reconnected to our Father. Jesus Himself models this for us multiple times throughout the Gospel accounts.
We have to find balance. Jesus would pray at times all night before He went out to minister to the people. Prayer needs to be central to our lives as Christians otherwise we aren’t seeking to love as God loves, but just to be good people. And God wants us to be more than good people. God wants us to be saints!