I recently moved into a new apartment building. Or as the building would like to say, a new “community.” Right before I signed the lease, I noticed that the leasing agent kept referring to the building as a “community” and never once used the word “building” at all. This surprised me. And it bothered me.
This liberal use of the word “community” bothered me because it felt like a cheap marketing ploy rather than being a real aspiration of connection between neighbors that would flourish inside the walls of the building. And it made me think- how do we use the word community, and what do we really mean when we use that word?
In the case of my apartment building, I think they really just want to be edgy for a millennial audience. But in the case of the church (aka a “community of faith”), I think it means much more.
Community isn’t something that can be declared into being with the use of a word. I recently heard that “community moves at the speed of trust.” Community is something that is built over time with a good amount of trust, respect, and shared goals.
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 gets at describing that sense of community and what happens to us all when we treat people with dignity and love our neighbors (or when we don’t). To me, the truth that loving our neighbors as ourselves will get us closer to God is the most basic truth of our faith. In order to build God’s Beloved Community, we must model what Jesus’ teachings have encouraged by loving each other.