“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’” (Gen. 2:18)
In the context of a recent conversation with a student about theology, we discussed the difference it makes when our approach to the Bible and theology emphasizes individuals or the community. Of course, God cares about both. God created us as unique individuals and cares for our individual needs. However, we often overlook the fact that God created us for community.
We are built to be part of a community: namely, the community of God known as the Church.
This pattern begins in creation itself. Human beings are the image of God together: “So God created humankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). What some translations refer to as “man,” “humankind,” or “humanity” is not about a specific individual gender. Rather, it is human creation itself that comprises the “image of God.” Humanity is incomplete if we think of it simply in individualistic terms (“it is not good for the man to be alone”).
This passage has been used, even in Scripture, to make important statements about marriage, but the passage is about even more than that. Non-married people are also part of the “image of God” described in Genesis 1:27. The bigger emphasis of this passage and the greater narrative of all of creation and redemption is that we are built to be in community: we are in this together!
The implications are many, but John Wesley highlighted a few in his ministry during the great revivals of the eighteenth century. For Wesley, salvation is not simply about being right with God; it is also about finding a place in God’s community (the Church). In fact, God teaches us who we are really created to be by placing us in a community that teaches, encourages, corrects, and gives us a broader perspective in regard to the bigger picture of God’s kingdom.
This is one reason why we not only worship God individually and privately, but also together as the body of Christ when we gather in harmony to sing, pray, give, proclaim, and encourage. We are built for this.
In fact, trying to participate in the Kingdom of God without participating in the community of God gives us an incomplete faith, since it is only by allowing ourselves to participate in God’s community that we can most fully participate in the image of God and discover why we were created.
An old country song proclaims, “Me and Jesus got our own thing going.” That kind of statement is popular in our overly-individualized and self-focused culture, but it is not the message of the Bible. The “thing” that Jesus and I are have “going” has everything to do with my Spirit-led connection with and participation in the community that God calls us to—God’s own community, the Church.
Prayer for the Week:
Almighty and ever-living God, ruler of all things in heaven
and earth: Hear our prayers for this church family. Strengthen
the faithful, arouse the careless, and restore the penitent.
Grant us all things necessary for our common life, and bring
us all to be of one heart and mind within your holy Church;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from The Book of Common Prayer)
Charles W. Christian is managing editor of Holiness Today.
Written for Coffee Break with Holiness Today.