It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:7-11
Together is a beautiful word. Perhaps this is because, from our origins, God has created us in His image to be a communal people. It was not good for man to be alone in the Garden, nor is it good for us to be alone today. Simply put, we need each other.
But in the recent pandemic this need has been severely tested. Where once we were free to enjoy a plethora of community groups and activities, we now find ourselves isolated and unable to safely spend time with those that matter. This has physical, emotional, and spiritual implications. It’s hard. While technology helps keep these ramifications at bay, there is just something special about being in proximity to those we love and hold dear.
I think about my own longing to see friends, and to once again be able to safely congregate at events that matter to me. I miss those outings and I can’t wait to get them back! But, as I wrestle through my own emotions, I can’t help but think of Paul. Placed under house arrest, far away from not only his friends, but also unable to expel the fervor he had for spreading the Gospel to those who needed it most, Paul lacked community. He missed those he loved, just as we miss those we love.
The letters and gifts were nice, but what Paul really longed for was them. Paul didn’t have the technological advances that we have today. To get a letter or a gift took months—no Amazon Prime for him! Yet, notice the love and passion he has for those in his circle of influence at Philippi. They had “a special place in his heart.” They didn’t just hear about his troubles and send well wishes, they participated in his suffering and his work, and this bonded them in a special way, much like soldiers in a war bond because of their shared trial. Paul’s trial was their trial too.
It is essential to the human experience to have community. Though we are currently more separated, we can still do our best with what we have to reach out. What can you do this week to reach out to those in your community? Call, text, Zoom, or send a note to someone who matters to you. Let them know how much you appreciate their role in your life.
By Sheila Rennau