By: Jon Meerdink
American culture tends to glorify the individual. We like the idea of the lone cowboy traversing the desert wasteland astride his mighty steed, rescuing embattled settlers from evil cattle rustlers, or the intrepid explorer sailing the seas in his lonely boat with nothing but the wind and some seagulls for company. You’d think our country was founded by a bunch of rugged individualists who happened to run into each other in Philadelphia one day, with the resulting explosion of testosterone and manliness somehow birthing the Constitution. Actually, that would have been pretty cool, but I digress.
Individualism and Christianity, though, don’t seem to mix. We’re all familiar with the “Body of Christ” illustration, emphasizing how we’re all part of a greater whole. We each have a role to play, and when all those roles come together in harmony, everyone achieves more. None of us, it would seem, is greater than all of us.
But I think the greatest benefit of community is the check against our own sinful natures. Consider the story of David, the man often identified as a man “after God’s own heart.” 2 Samuel 11 begins with this account: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” (emphasis mine)
I probably don’t need to give you the blow-by-blow of what happens next, but adultery, murder, and death were all outcomes. What stands out to me, though, is that it all seems to be a result of David removing himself from his default community.
David was a man of war. Of the warriors in the Bible, he was probably the greatest, expanding Israel’s territory through his conquests and defeating his enemies at every turn. Ol’ Dave was pretty clearly at his best when he was with his war buddies. That was his community. Some of us have bowling teams or book clubs; David had his Mighty Men (check 2 Samuel 23 for some of their exploits).
At any rate, I think it’s very telling that a man noted for his closeness to God fell the farthest away from the Lord when he left his community. Surrounded by his fellow warriors, David was nearly invincible, but when he was alone, he was brought down almost immediately by his own desires. Apparently, just having other people around was enough of a check to keep David focused on God.
College presents an tremendous opportunity for living in community. It’s likely that none of us will ever have an opportunity in our lives to live in close proximity with as many people as we do as when we are in schools. While I understand that there is a need to have some alone time, there is much to be said for the chance to talk and live and grow with others. And as we can learn from David, our community can give us the support we need to stay strong in the face of temptation.