What comes to your mind when you think about the word community?
Does your mind fill with people you love and live life with on a regular basis? Or maybe your thoughts go straight to gatherings, events, parties and potlucks where people come together in a consistent way that fills you and brings you life. Many people that I interact with on a regular basis have told me that community is what they long for, but find unattainable.
You may have had seasons that were full of deep and authentic community as well as seasons where you looked around and felt isolated and alone. I think we’ve all been there and maybe every place in between. We’ve seen a glimpse of what we long for coming to fruition in every new beginning with high hopes of finding a place to belong. We scroll through social media and ache when we see that other people are surrounded by what appears to be deep and authentic relationships. We sit around tables and glance at the faces of people we love, know and feel safe with – and just take it all in… because that authentic, deep, beautiful fellowship is what we long for.
God has created us with a desire to be fully known and unconditionally loved.
We all long to belong.
The purest and truest form of community is when we meet Jesus and experience the depth of His miraculous love that covers all the known, wretched ugliness in our hearts with His perfect forgiveness. The essence of who we are, in our sinful state, is laid bare before Him and we experience the most beautiful thing about His love – it is lavished on us in our most known depraved state. We often feel like we need to become perfect before seeking acceptance from God – but that is not the case, the reason why His great love is so vast, deep and completely life changing in every way is because His love pushes past all our sin, and filth and runs right to the core of our beings and embraces us there – in our absolute worst state. If we could not experience His love until we were perfect – we would never find it. If we hide behind a front of our good deeds and hoped that would be enough – or put only our best before Him, hoping that would be enough – it never would be. It feels empty and lonely to be loved for an image you are projecting instead of your true self. The richest, purest and most authentic community is experienced between us and God when we realize that He loves us and accepts us with the fullest knowledge and understanding of our sin and brokenness. Our sin and brokenness does not change, alter or waver His magnificent love for even a moment – ever. That is the essence of community – being fully known and fully loved.
Once we have experienced the depth and richness of God’s unconditional love and grace we can invite others in and share it with them. “We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19. It can be as simple as that. That is how we build true community. We are able to replicate the purest and most lavish love and build authentic community by then extending that beautiful love and grace to others. It takes courage to let people in. It takes immense vulnerability and humility to to be authentic. It is scary. We all fear rejection. However, the right people will see your mess and not be afraid to come in and love you anyway. True community doesn’t look like everyone sharing all their sin, embracing it and celebrating it because it feels free – that actually creates more mess and leads to immense brokenness and destruction. Healthy relationships = growth and sharpening of each other. Community looks like sharing yourself for who you really are, struggles and all, and having someone say, “Let me link arms with you and walk through this with you. We can walk towards healing and wholeness together.” There is nothing more beautiful than that my friends. Nothing.
My top 6 essentials for building community
- Know the truth of God’s Word and walk in it (even when you don’t feel it – it is absolute truth). – You are fully known, unconditionally loved, unequivocally accepted in your most depraved state, and seen as righteous ALWAYS because of our beautiful Savior who stands with us.
- Be a safe and trustworthy person
- Discern safe and trustworthy people to invite into your life (This is not a free pass to exclusivity. Be loving and kind to everyone! But only share the inner workings of your heart with trustworthy people – that is wisdom.)
- Love extravagantly, always be willing to lavish extra grace (because even trustworthy people will fail), and be quick to forgive (forgiveness frees us from viewing life through a broken lens- we are the ones held captive by unforgivness, not the offender).
- Be willing and open to letting others speak life and correction into your fears, insecurities and brokenness. This may feel like death to you – it does to me – Oh humility! We have a love/hate relationship. It can be so devastating and embarrassing to see my flaws and brokenness. However, with the power of a resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ, and a community that is willing to walk through the brokenness with you, we get to a point where we actually long for the sin in us to be put to death so that new life giving, healthy and whole habits, patterns and desires can emerge and flourish.
- If you don’t already have a place where you belong and are doing live with people – be the person that invites others in! Start being the person you long to find in community to the people God has put right in front of you. Maybe you are just what the people around you need – someone brave to intentionally begin cultivating authenticity and community.
May all your longings be met in His love, and may that sense of security and belonging flourish into a community around you that brings the life and love of Jesus to the world in a powerful way. When we are truly loving others the way God made us to love – the world sees Jesus. Our desires to be known and loved are met and the world is introduced to a Savior as they watch us love each other.
Nothing more beautiful than that.