Life is a curious thing. On the one hand, we experience the joy of weddings, birthdays, achievements, and celebrations. On the other hand, we experience the sorrow of death, sickness, heartbreak and losses. Life is full of good times and bad, and often it is full of both at once.
But I am comforted by one thing that remains constant throughout this – the beauty of community.
Experiencing life with people
Call me simplistic, but through all the good and bad, it is people that make this life worth living.
We are designed for community, and God himself in the story of creation says that it is not good for us to be alone. But I don’t think that God was just talking about having someone else to help us out. This is about having other people to experience life with, to journey through life’s hurdles with someone by our side.
All of life’s experiences wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful if they weren’t shared with others. Would the good times bring as much joy to us if not shared with a friend? But also, would the bad times bring as much sorrow?
This might seem like an odd thing to say, but the bad times are often only as painful as they are because of the love we have for the people affected. Equally though, the bad times are made all the more bearable because of the love and support of those around us.
Witnessing true community
I’ve counted it a real privilege over the last few weeks to have seen first-hand true community in action – in some amazing moments and in some sad moments, but through it all it has been truly wondrous to behold.
Just this last week I witnessed real, raw and authentic community in the midst of a tragic situation, and despite the sorrow, it was beautiful. Truly. Deeply. Honestly.
What makes true community so beautiful though is that it is simply just love in action – a real and deep love that we read about in the Bible in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians chapter 13, verses 4-8).
If this love in action is what community is all about at its heart, then surely there is nothing more beautiful in the world.
Community in the midst of tragedy
Like true joy and true peace, I think that this kind of true community is seen in the midst of mess, of tragedy, of heartbreak and sacrifice. Community can exist on a superficial level for sure, but community at its deepest level really surfaces when times are tough.
New Zealanders saw this so clearly following the terrorist attacks in Christchurch on 15 March. This was a horrific event, one which New Zealand had never faced before and shook all of us to our very core. And yet out of this came an incredible sense of community throughout our nation, and an outpouring of love to each other.
This wasn’t just a “sending thoughts and prayers” kind of love but a deep authentic kind of love for our neighbours, where people hugged strangers in the streets and cried with them, where we looked our Muslim brothers and sisters in the eyes and told them that they were seen and valued and loved.
It was a terrible event, but the love and community that flowed out of it was beyond anything we’d witness in our day-to-day. This was community at a deeper level.
True community is profound
True community is not just something that can be described as lovely or nice or even good. Those words can’t, and don’t, do it justice.
True community is profound. It is visceral. It is spiritual.
True community is the way of the Kingdom of Jesus. It is how Jesus lived on earth, and it is how He continues to teach us to live and love.
And if Jesus was the most beautiful man to ever live, then this community that he calls us to be part of must be pretty beautiful too.
Rebecca Howan is from Wellington, New Zealand, where she works as an Executive Assistant in the humanitarian sector. She worships and serves at The Salvation Army, and is passionate about music, travelling the world and building community.
You can read Rebecca’s previous columns at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rebecca-howan.html