While eating in a large group for the Night To Be Much Observed, one of the people at our dinner waxed eloquent about the issue of community, talking about how it is that baptism was a sign of one’s commitment to following God and seeing God and Jesus Christ as friends and in sharing in community with the two of them. By and large I think we can all agree that any genuine religious walk is going to be a walk with God and that one will be in communion with what we worship. One cannot help but at least desire to walk with one whom one seeks to obey and follow in the course of one’s life.
It should be noted, though, that this is not where community ends. As human beings, there is a wide variety of community that we engage in by choice and also community that is an inevitable consequence of our choices and commitments. Where we live makes us a part of a given community, as is true with where we study, where we work, where we go to church, where we choose to shop or eat or work out or any other number of activities. Whether or not we know the people we are around very well or not at all, the choices we make about how and where we choose to spend our time makes us a part of communities. This is especially true when we consider matters of faith, belief, and religious practice.
How often do we recognize that seeking a relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ gives us a relationship with all other believers who are doing and seeking likewise. To be sure, we may not always know those whom we have communion with. We do not know all of the people who share our beliefs and religious practices and whom we would consider to be brethren. We barely know, at times at least, those with whom we fellowship in a deliberate fashion, to say nothing of those who are our brethren without us knowing about it or knowing indeed about them, such as past believers who have now died, believers in locations we have never ben to, and those who will follow us and perhaps wish they could have known us.
Even so, there are consequences for us to the extent that we seek to enjoy community with God the Father and Jesus Christ but not with other people who are making the same walk of faith that we are. These consequences include our walk being hindered by the fact that we are not fellowshipping as the Bible itself commands. They include our failure to improve our beliefs and practices by being held accountable by other people who can see whether our deeds and example follow our profession and belief, and who can encourage us to live according to the ideals that we profess, which we may not be inclined to do if no one is holding us accountable to do so. Similarly, the failure to commune with other people may cut us off from the community that we seek with God and Jesus Christ because to follow them makes us part of a body of believers. Even if we are all individually accountable to God for our walk according to His ways, our profession of faith puts us in a community of believers whether we like it or not. And it seems in this present evil age that one of our problems is that we all want to be seen as followers of God but do not always deal well with the other people involved.