In a recent article about the New England Patriots Chaplain, Jack Easterby (who I had the opportunity to teach and mentor at church 20+ years ago), Patriot’s player Matthew Slater stated, “As macho as we are in this locker room, we all want to be loved. As men, sometimes we don’t know how to deal with different emotions or ups and downs. We don’t grieve the way we should, experience sadness the way we should or express joy the way we should, because we’re so focused on the job. Jack has been there to say, ‘It’s OK to be down. It’s OK to have heartache.’” What Matthew was saying is that we all need community in our lives. Thankfully, Jack has created a community within the Patriot’s locker room. Many rise to the top, but all of us fall at some point and need a hand to get back up.
For many of us, we grew up a few years back when our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins lived in our community. When you needed help, you picked up the phone and gave a call. Within minutes, the family would arrive to help in anyway. On special events, especially Sundays, we’d get together to celebrate or just feast on good food. Having family close by was a blessing, especially in times of need.
Today, things have changed for most of us. No longer do we live in the family communities we grew up in and our close family members aren’t so close by. My wife and I recently attended a meeting with about forty people. Out of forty people, only three grew up in our state. We grew up in South Carolina and live in Charleston, SC where 50+ people move to every day. Our neighborhood is filled with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and other college banners that I never saw as a kid from Kershaw, South Carolina. Times have changed, and so have our communities.
Merriam Webster’s definition of community is “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location with common interests.” For some of us in our neighborhood, we come from different cities and states, but we move to Charleston because we enjoy our beautiful city and the water. Some come because of a company transfer with Boeing, Mercedes, Volvo, Maersk, etc. We have things in common, but one aspect we need to focus on in the definition is the part “interacting population.” If we don’t interact, we don’t have community.
The Bible has a clear message about community. In Psalms 133, the writer states, “how good and how pleasing it is for brothers to live together as one! It is like oil of great worth poured on the head, flowing down through the hair on the face.” Communities first attribute is living together as one. This doesn’t mean we agree on football teams or even politics, but we choose to live as one.
For those that follow Jesus, we have a command given to us in Hebrews 10 that we cannot ignore. “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works… but (the command) encourage one another”. Community is not about being equal in capabilities but equal in sharing our abilities to benefit the whole. Paul writes in Romans 12, “as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function.” Yes, we all have a special function within our communities.
What is your community’s function? What is your community’s purpose and how are you using your gifts and talents to serve this community? Don’t think that your part is small and doesn’t serve the community, and don’t think that your community is too small to serve you. We all need our community to offer us a hand, at some point, to help pick us up.
To be valuable in your community, let’s go back to the beginning…you have to interact. Once you interact, you can share your gifts and talents, no matter how small they may seem. Trust me…we have been in a place where we needed that hand to pick us up. God created community and family for a reason. Let’s interact, live in a community with love and help each other live as it was intended. It may just save your life.