Community

Rebecca Van Noord

She might be the one we tend to avoid—the member of a small group who always states the obvious or brings up topics unrelated to the discussion at hand. I’m always a bit impatient for her to finish speaking so that others can offer more insightful comments, but generally her comments are followed by only awkward pauses. Or, he’s the person we’re attempting to avoid after church and small group because he always repeats the story about his grandkids that we’ve heard more than just a few times. I hope someone else will be there for him. If I’m feeling extra congenial, I might chat with him—always good to earn some kindness points.

I might approach community this way, but reading Romans 12:9–16 convicts me. The list of instructions on building up the community quickly reveals the selfish bent of my motives. Paul, who has just finished explaining that each member has specific spiritual gifts, shows what living in loving community is supposed to look like: “Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor, not lagging in diligence, being enthusiastic in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, being devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, pursuing hospitality. Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Think the same thing toward one another; do not think arrogantly, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own sight” (Rom 12:9–16).

I’m not meant to approach my small group study as a support group to help me work out my problems. Faith communities are familial settings where the gifts I have are meant to be developed and worked out for the good of others. It’s where I’m called to serve people around me—even, and especially, people who are lonely or a little different than me. I can only do that with a heart that is devoted to others, highly esteems them, and looks out for their needs. It’s when I humbly serve that I learn things I didn’t know in passing—the death of her husband and her difficulty in finding the right words to convey her ideas and experiences. It’s there where I learn that his kids barely call, and he’s reciting the same information from the yearly Christmas card. It’s where I help when I can, and pray when I can’t. And along the way, through my service, I may learn a thing or two from people who have gifts I have yet to discover.

Are you involved in a community? If you are, are you actually involved? How can you use your gifts to build up the people around you?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.