It was John Donne who said, “No man is an island, entire of itself . . . Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” The language of Mr. Donne may be antiquated but the truth he spoke is as relevant today as it was when it was first written. The six degrees of separation we’ve all heard about shows that we’re all connected. And when someone we know dies, doesn’t it seem as though part of us has died with them?
We live and die as community! Jesus taught this when He said that the second greatest command was to love our neighbor as ourselves. One of the most beloved stories of the Scripture is that of the Good Samaritan. It is a story that instructs us about community. It tells us that our neighbor cannot be restricted to a few chosen people who think like we do.
That being the case, we’ll do well to value community and do all we can to promote its well-being. Our well-being as individuals, the health of our families, the welfare of our friends—it’s all tied into community!
The health of a community can be measured by its unity. In fact, it’s not hard to see the word unity in community, is it? And while it’s true that communities need diversity, that diversity must find some over-arching unity if it is to survive and prosper.
The nation of Israel, on the whole, did a poor job of practicing unity. Although they enjoyed a few shining moments (mostly under Saul, David and Solomon), this was unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. Despite the fact God had given them laws, feasts, psalms (133), and a temple to steer them toward togetherness, their tendency toward tribalism eventually won out. Jesus’ sad commentary on the nation was that a kingdom divided against itself could not stand. A community without unity will not last long.
All of this is to say that we need to take God’s call to unity very seriously today. Paul will say to the Christian community at Colossae:
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity,” (Colosians 3:12-14).
Where there is unity there is strength!