Some of us are introverts, where we find ourselves drained by being around lots of other people. Others of us are extroverts, where lots of people actually give us energy and bring us to life. But despite this personality trait, we are all united by a universal longing for relationships – for love, acceptance, and fellowship. God designed us to have that longing after all, but due to our rebellion against God, relationships are hard… and they can be incredibly challenging. Yet God provides hope, and it is incredibly easier and more encouraging than you may think.
There is no magic formula to build community and have relationships. Ultimately to be in community, all you need it to share one’s story, one’s life, and one’s work with one another. What this means is:
- Small talk is important. Guys and gals must talk shop and reminisce about one’s past in order for you to know that you can, and do, care about each other – if you do not listen and care about the small details, how will you know if the larger issues actually matter?
- As you discover common ground in each other’s stories, you must celebrate and share them even more. I met a man while we were on vacation last week. He walked around with a Cleveland Indians baseball cap on, which is a dead giveaway that he is NOT from Florida, as only certain Ohioans cheer for the Indians, and he went to Pittsburgh Technical Institute! Now common ground could be a similar geographical hometown, a shared historic event (9/11), heritage (Irish perhaps?), or just a fact that you share similar quirks and interests.
- Learn about each other’s differences, and enjoy learning about someone and something new. Do not let these differences be an obstacle to enjoying each other.
- As you converse with one another, listen for each other’s values, struggles, dreams, and ambitions.
- But don’t focus on what separates you. The biblical truth is that we are all unique, and there is only one of us. But if we would focus on our uniqueness, then we would actually push ourselves away from the people who would push us to grow, change, and image God more fully. Instead focus on what brings you together: it will most certainly be faith, it could be family, or education and your workplace, or your passions, virtues, and values.
- Probe yourself and look for that thing or reason that is holding you back. You have nothing to fear from this other person, as your security and identity is in Jesus. God will never abandon or condemn you. Therefore it does not matter what I or they think. Whatever it is that is holding you back, is part of a larger issue tied to your rebellion against God.
- Probe into each other’s lives
- How is God working in your life – past and present? We often treat our stories of grace as private things, only for our close friends and family, and those church elders, but shouldn’t these be the primary stories that define us and illustrate our identity in Christ, and not our jobs?
- What challenges are you both currently facing?
- How can I pray for you?
- Is there any other way that I can serve you? (help moving, watching the kids, shoveling some snow, mowing a yard, etc.)
- Celebrate your relationship by doing things together for fun (dinner, movie), be there for each other for when you’ll need a shoulder, and show your affection for one another – high fives, pounds, bear hugs, etc. Whatever is culturally appropriate for your relationship. Paul did tell us to great each other with a holy kiss. One of the best things about community is the ability to laugh with one another and lovingly at each other.
- Serve together. (We’ll talk about that in the next post, which will be on mission.”)