A sense of belonging is like invisible roots, planting us within a social field. In a good environment well-being develops, comfort and loyalty envelopes, and this is all a desirable state for a person.
We seek stability from many sources, perhaps through our own skills, finances or intellect. Extrinsically we might seek a place among our peers or through validating ourselves by providing help to others. Most commonly stability, support, acceptance and many other comfortable states are found in family, friends and community.
Indeed social living is a large focus of both the old and new testaments of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Clearly God created us to live in societies.
What is also clear from Biblical narrative and our regular lives is that our society, made up of us as sinful people, often falls short of what we desire and what we need.
Once a nourishing environment is poisoned it can be detrimental to all involved. Such is the tragedy which befalls so many people in family strife, abusive relationships, ostracism and rejection.
Following that good social environments are beneficial for each other and that we are often flawed in our involvement in relationships we should pause to consider how we can improve.
Perhaps it is no mistake that we "cultivate" friendships. Relationships require work and like agriculture it is a work of caring. Both parties need to put in effort to develop a relationship. I feel like this is self-evident but in the moment where you have a choice to head straight home after church or spend some time with friends over a meal afterwards it is all too easy to choose going home.
Stability takes effort even further. While it is commendable to help anyone in need, keep an eye out for your friends, be there to help when they ask, how much better is it when a friend offers to help without even being asked. Let us look out for a chance to do this.
While work and effort highlight some areas in which we can be continually striving to do to the best of our ability, commonalities are undeniably part of sharing our lives together in community.
Churches already have a step up here in our common salvation through Christ. Building on top of this though, is important as we strive to help each other in our community of believers.
Shared passions are a favourite of all. While not everyone likes the same sport or hobby, connections here can make conversation so much the easier. Hard work though, rears its head in the background here. Just because someone doesn't share an interest in the cricket, it is part of our duty to each other to step outside of our interests and connect with someone a bit different to ourselves.
By developing relationships with one another we set up a community where we can care and look out for individuals and while it takes work, hard effort and still won't be perfect it is beneficial for us to exist this way.
Moving into the 21st century where the Church is diminishing in the west we need to continue our efforts to provide a vibrant community. We are no longer living in a time where Church was a central part of society or local community.
This change has left us with a great opportunity and perhaps duty to be a righteous, fulfilled community for those around us. In this way we can serve each other and provide a glimpse of God's intended purpose.
Sam Gillespie is a postgraduate research student at the university of New South Wales.
Sam Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-gillespie.html