Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Blessing of Community

Community... the word community may bring to mind different things to different people.  It may mean the city you live in, it may even mean a TV show you watch, but for me community means my church.  Community means the church staff with which I am privileged to work.  Community means my small group that we do life with.  Community means my bible class.  For me community is an extension of my family.  My community is a part of my family.  My Community is a safe a place.

There has been a lot going on in my community in the last couple of weeks.  There are people who have had to go back into the hospital, there are people who have lost loved ones, there are people who are just flat hurting or who have been hurt.

As I have sat with people in my community this week, I am reminded of how blessed I am. I don't know how people do life without community. My community has been with me through some really hard times.  This week I was blessed to be a shoulder to others in my community.  And the thing that is so cool about that is that even though I am visiting with others to try and bless them in some way, I walk away being the one who is blessed.

On the way into work this morning, I heard of a 16 year old girl who had been kidnapped.  They knew who had done it and were looking for her, but they feared for her safety.  As I prayed over her, I prayed that her family has community.  That they have someone that can be there for them and with them.  Then I heard a story of an incident that happened in a Panera Bread restaurant.  A mother and her 2 year old toddler daughter went to have lunch in a Panera.  The little girl had to wear orthopedic shoes.  A patron in the restaurant actually complained about the little girl, not because she was being disruptive (which would have been bad enough), but because her shoes were "squeaky" and making to much noise.  That breaks my heart.  Then to top it off, the manager asked them to leave because of this patron.  Panera has apologized for the incident for which I am thankful.  But what is wrong with people when they complain about 2 year old because her shoes, which she wears to help her, are too "squeaky"?

As I said, that story as it pertains to the little girl and her mom breaks my heart.  But what breaks my heart even more is the woman who complained.  Someone who feels the need to complain about a 2 year old's shoes must feel pretty sad and lonely inside.  They may be a person who just needs someone to stop and say hello; someone who needs someone to notice them and give them a smile.  Maybe they are someone who needs to be surrounded by a community that loves them. 

God created us to be people who love one another.  He created us with a need to be around people.  He created us with a need to be loved and to love others.  If we are not loving one another could it be it's because we don't feel love from others?  Could it be we need a community who will surround us in our times of heartache, loss or trouble?  Sometimes you need to be able to feel that love of community in order to know how to show that love to others.  Love of community is the love of God in my opinion in it's purest and rawest form.  I know from experience that being part of a community of God's people is sometimes the only thing that will get you through.  Because it's through that love that you feel the love of God.

I admit my first thought this morning of the woman who complained was a little bit judgmental.  But then I was reminded by God, that woman may not have community.  She may not know what the love of God feels like, so how can she know how to show that love to others. If you are in community with God's people, you are blessed.  If you need to feel that kind of love, look for a community of believers you can be a part of; a community of believers who know what it means to show love and provide a safe place.  We would welcome you at Highland Oaks Church of Christ if you yearn to be a part of community. 

I would also like to challenge you, when you see someone such as this woman or many others like her, try to remember that they may not be part of a community. Or maybe their community hasn't learned how to show love and love others in all circumstances.  Maybe they don't know about God's love and maybe they need someone to show them what God's love looks like.  Sometimes just giving someone a smile or saying hi to them can do wonders to change someones disposition. And sometimes it may not; at least not in that moment.  But you never know how a kind word you speak to someone today can change their life.  Maybe not now, maybe not even in the weeks to come; sometimes it may be years later.  But I've often heard stories of people who remember a time years ago when a spoken word, or a gentle touch by someone set things in motion and set them on a path that changed their life.

Sometimes it's so easy for us to judge someone else.  But you have no idea what is going on in that person's life outside of what you see in that moment.  You have no idea of the hurt or loss they may feel.  You have no idea of the struggles they may have.  You have no idea of the loneliness they may feel.  So I challenge you as I challenge myself to try and ALWAYS see people through the eyes of Jesus.  To always show other the love that Christ shows you.  And remember... that smile, that hello, that gentle touch or compassion you show them in that instant could be the spark, the touch of God, that changes their life!

 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
Colossians 3:12