Community can be (and often is) undermined by several things, including two kinds of isolation. First, there is group isolation, or what is commonly called a “clique.” Second, there is individual isolation; the cloistered person who hangs out with himself. Both forms of isolation are destructive to the community and to the isolated persons. Let’s consider them one at a time.
The clique usually forms spontaneously but not necessarily self-consciously. As the old cliché puts it, “Birds of a feather flock together.” This is understandable, since we’re naturally attracted to people who we see as being most like us. Friends like their friends. Other associations emerge from social class, work relationships, school, hobbies, sports, age, etc. On the face of it, these associations are not wrong. In fact, they offer many healthy and appropriate benefits that are blessings from God. The problem for the community emerges when these associations grow increasingly exclusive. Perhaps this exclusivity does not happen intentionally, nevertheless, if there is not a self-conscious effort to guard against it, inertia sets in and the gravity of human nature takes over.
The Apostle Paul admonishes us: “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Rom. 12:16). As members of the Body of Christ, we are members with every other member of the Body. Thus, we have obligations and duties toward all of them, and not simply toward a select group within the Body. God Himself adds to the Church and He brings particular people to be a part of us because we have something to learn from every one. Each member has both assets and liabilities and we are called to minister to the liabilities and also to benefit from the assets. We are to both serve and be served as fellow members. All the “one another” passages call us to a broad community involvement and commitment.
“Love one another” (John 13:34-35); “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” (Rom. 12:10); “Be of the same mind toward one another.” (Rom. 12:16); “edify one another.” (Rom. 14:19); be like-minded toward one another, and receive one another” (Rom. 15:5-7); “admonish one another” (Rom. 15:14); “Greet one another” (Rom. 16:16); “have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25); “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13); “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2); “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32); “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:18-21); “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another” (Col. 3:12-16); “comfort each other” (1 Thess. 5:11); “exhort one another daily” (Heb. 3:12-13); “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Heb. 10:24-25); “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16); “have compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9); “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 9Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. 10As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:8-10).
Tomorrow we will consider those who cloister themselves.