My first real experience with community was in middle school when our church youth group went swimming at the nearest “community” center. In this case, the nearest community center was 18 miles away in the neighboring town of Staples, MN. I had certainly been exposed to community prior to this event, but in my self-absorbed, egocentric, middle school mind, all other community aspects in my life, like family, church, school, etc…would have been lost to the fact that life was all about me and not to the communities in which I dwelt.
The Staples Community Center, was the ONLY community center within a 50 mile radius or more from my home town of Wadena. In fact, it held the ONLY indoor pool…with a diving board…that I knew of. It is a widely held belief that a community center is called a community center, because it offers all kinds of wonderful opportunities for everyone in the “community.” However, as I look back on those care free days of community center living, I can easily spot the real reason for the less than flashy title. I am convinced that the title is derived from the fact that at places like these…everything is “shared” with the “community.” Here we find that the showers, lockers, benches, the diving board, experiences and influenza are all shared. I remember watching one particular 6 year old boy share a head full of snot with everyone in the water, when his sneeze sent floating currents of mucus across the pool’s surface. Next to him, my friend Matt obliviously sucked up water in his mouth and shared it with others as he shot it at the cute girls in a pre-pubescent effort at flirting. I won’t even mention the small children wearing…or not wearing…swim diapers.
When our youth group finished up with all of our “sharing” within the “community” center, we all shared a ride home, and we shared stories of our chicken fight victories. The next day we would all show up to church with red blood-shot eyes and itchy skin as a sign of the solidarity of our community.
Since I have grown older, I have learned two things about community. Number 1: Community pools are gross. Number 2: Community is much deeper, more powerful and vital, than I had ever realized before.
Living in community is difficult, but it is worth it. Interestingly, one of the greatest challenges to community is conflict, while one of the greatest builders of community is…also conflict. Living in community is exhausting. It is inevitable that conflicts will arise and we will become tired of investing so much time and energy into many of our relationships.
Likewise, Paul recognized this in the Galatian churches as well, so he encouraged them to persevere. Paul encouraged believers to carry each other’s burdens, to not bite or devour each other, and to not grow weary from doing good. To Paul, the Gospel in community was so important that he called the believers to endure. He also spurred us on to “not grow weary.” The he exhorted that if we will hang in there, that a harvest will be reaped if we do not give up. As I look at this passage, I believe that Paul was speaking these words to and in the context for community and the relationships within the community.
May we not give up on relationships. May we not grow weary for doing good, and may the Lord bring the harvest of restored relationships within the community.