A common idea that has been floating around for the past several years is that the more connected we become the more disconnected we seem to get. A 2012 thriller ‘Disconnect’ follows the storylines of people seeking out relationships via technology instead of with the people who are already around them (spouses, children, friends).
The benefits of the internet for positive community growth can be great – video calling loved ones overseas, working from home instead of having to live in the same city as your workplace and more.
However, like most things it can also be abused such as in the case of the South Korean couple that let their baby starve to death while they were spending hours in internet cafes playing a computer game in which they raised a virtual child.
The internet certainly didn’t create the problem of individualism but it has certainly added fuel to the fire. Individualism is defined as the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant. These things while they may be good have become an unhealthy obsession with many people.
We Were Not Created For Individualism
Individualism and Individuality are two different things – God loves individuality – he created men and women, short and tall people, English and Chinese and Nigerian people, people that love pink and people that love brown.
In short, he created a huge beautiful kaleidoscope of people, rejoicing in all of their differences but he created them to come together in one big community that brings all their gifts and differences together to build one another up.
In Genesis, God says that is not good for Adam to be alone and at the end of the bible where it is talking about all things being made new and perfect it says in Revelation chapter 7, verse 9a, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”
We’re Created for Community Because God is Community
There’s a common myth that God created people because he was lonely and wanted someone to love but that’s completely wrong because God, while he is one, he is not one person; God includes the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – they have always all existed together in loving community with each other fully satisfied in each other.
In Genesis chapter 1, verse 27, it says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
We were created in the image of God therefore we were created for community, we weren’t created to go it alone and rely on ourselves and all our own abilities but to bring all the wonderful things God gifted us with together and share them with others as well as benefiting from others gifts.
When we get to go exciting places or eat delicious food or achieve great successes, none of it really matters if we don’t have friends or family to share the experiences with. Imagine going on the most amazing vacation ever but you couldn’t talk to anyone and you couldn’t share about it with anyone - that would surely strip a lot of the joy away!
Our Responsibility to Community
We can not opt-out of community, it is not an optional extra, it is who we are at our core – we are made to be in community by our God who is the perfect and everlasting embodiment of ultimate community. When we come to understand that, it will naturally start to shape every part of our lives.
Rosaria Butterfield, a wonderful Christian writer has written a book called, “The Gospel comes with a house key” which is about how as Christians we are called to open up not just our purses occasionally but every part of our lives including our houses and think about how we can serve others with everything God has given to us.
We’re not just called to help out people with food or shelter though, we are called to come alongside them when they’re in emotional hardship, when they’re sick, or lonely, or when they need food, clothes, or a place to stay.
We are not only responsible for ourselves, we can’t just tell others to pull up their bootstraps and make something of themselves. We need to keenly feel others' pain and then want to do something about it as if it were us who were hurting.
The Gift of Community
God has given us the wonderful gift of community. Yes people can be frustrating and hurtful, but ultimately we will find our joy and purpose. Not in achieving everything by ourselves and for ourselves but in living in self-giving and other focused community.
By loving others with the abundant overflow of love that comes from receiving love and forgiveness and acceptance into God’s family through Jesus’ death for us and his resurrection that brought us back into relationship with God and filled our hearts with love and joy, we can now pass on as it says in 1 John chapter 1, verse 19, “We love because he first loved us.”
Jessica McPherson lives with her best friend and husband, Eoin and their family of rescue animals in Christchurch. She loves reading, writing, photography and scrap-booking but most of all sharing God’s love and truth with a hurting world. Jessica is particularly passionate about encouraging children and building them up in gospel truth.