The Origins of Community
A community is a group of people who have something in common. Usually a community is first thought of as people who share the same district or locality. But it broadly and accurately means people who have things in common with others which involves them living together and sharing their resources. Some communities are described as strong or tight. A strong community has a good understanding of what it means to live together and share common resources. This kind of community is open to all those who wish to join it. A tight community however tends to guard jealously its togetherness by being reluctant to welcome in others or share their resources with them.
Over the last few decades an ironic two-pronged trend has been happening. Cities are getting larger and communities are getting smaller. Perhaps some might even wonder if there is any sense of community in large cities at all. Individualism seems to the accepted, if not the promoted, way of life. But how was mankind designed to live? By rediscovering the "theology of community" (that is, what God has to say about communities), we can be more effective in our daily struggles and pursuits.
The First Community
The opening chapters of Genesis reveal the "DNA" for God's intention for mankind. By the sixth day when man was created, the earth was teeming with animals and all kinds of wildlife.
1. Yet, what was the essential missing ingredient for Adam- and why did God say that Adam needed this ingredient? (Gen. 2:18)
2. What was God's command to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28?
The first principle for binding a community together is: rules. The first concept of community (living together and sharing resources) was the family. God obviously spoke with the first community more than is actually recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis. We discover that they had an understanding of animal sacrifices (Gen. 4:3-4), and even the moral law of God (because Cain knew immediately it was wrong to have murdered, Gen. 4:9). Much of what God probably revealed orally was not formally written down as Scripture until much later.
3. Observe the rules laid down for community living (Exodus 20:12) that directly affects the original type of community. How do these rules regulate the type of original community?
Throughout the next few studies we will examine the remaining Commandments that pertain directly to community living. This particular rule establishes the place of authority and respect for leadership within a community. This original community was the embryo for all types of communities.
4. In what ways are cities getting larger, and yet communities getting smaller?
Man was not designed to live an isolated life. Community was the original framework of mankind's establishment. We were created to be in communion with God, and others. Isolate a man and he will feel the ache of being absent from a community. Recently a documentary about Los Angeles stated that people are living more isolated lives. Yet street gangs are springing up all across the city. Teenagers are made to feel like outsiders unless they belong to a gang. While these gangs are often criminal in nature, they are none-the-less: communities. In fact one local identity stated that these young men on the streets have basically had no relationship with their fathers. He went on to say that these gangs acted more like the family to these teenagers than did their actual families. This comment was reiterated by many gang members themselves.
The Foundation of a Larger Community
The family is the foundation of any larger community. While it is a community itself, it forms the thread and fabric of any larger community. We often hear it said that if there is a breakdown of the family then there is a breakdown of a society. Some of the qualities of a family that reflect community are: living together, sharing resources, the stronger providing for and protecting the less strong, working together for a common goal, playing together and experiencing each others highs and lows.
5. Can you think of any other qualities of a family as a community?
Assuming that strong communities are good communities, as distinct from tight communities, we should strive to be a strong community. Because the family is the basic building block of any larger community, the stronger the family- the stronger the overall community.
6. In what ways does the Christian family have an advantage over non-Christian families in being a strong community?
As the Scriptures unfolded from the original revelation of a community, we witness the concept of a community becoming broader in its scope. Families started relating to each other. Tribes came from families. Tribes then formed nations. At each stage of development, God established guidelines for maximising their community potential. Jesus came to establish a different kind of community. His community was not to be based on nationality, lineage, or geography. The Church is the ultimate community here on earth.
Bible study index
© 2001 Andrew Corbett, Legana, Tasmania