In most of our history as a nation, we had what I believe, to be a better example of community. In those days, they not only lived in proximity with, but entered into, one another's lives in powerful ways. People ate regularly in each other's homes, seeing food as an avenue of fellowship. If someone was experiencing hardship, food was shared generously with the knowledge that the next time, they may be on the receiving end. Building projects involved most of the community members in one aspect or another. People put aside their own lives and concerns and put in long and arduous labor for another's well being. When sickness and health issues arose, many times people exposed themselves to possible infection to nurse the sick. Others took on the job to keep up with chores, children and daily living requirements of those incapacitated, adding to their own personal responsibilities and making for very long work days.
My mother and father used to tell me stories from their childhood, growing up in The Great Depression, of the 1930's in the U.S. Both lived in small rural northern MN towns and both grandfathers were able to work minimally during those years. One, worked on a railroad. The other in the iron ore mines. Not high paying jobs, by any means. Both families had gardens and some livestock on their small town lots. And both families cared for and supported many other families and individuals during the years of The Depression who had no income, no gardens and no livestock to eat from. But this support was not out of a surplus of my grandparents supply. Rather, it came from their own small portion that was barely enough for their own families. My mother tells of having underclothes made from flour sacks, and getting to eat either the back portion or 1 wing of a chicken for her dinner. But, my grandmother canned for hours, food harvested from the garden, to give away to folks who needed it and were worse off than them.
Let's be honest. This is pretty far removed from how we live in community with each other today. Sure, we don't have the Great Depression that would force some of this. Yet, anyway. Most of us live self-sufficient insular lives, paying our bills, taking vacations, buying "stuff" and every once in a while, we may give a few bucks away to someone who may need it. If we help someone with a building project they may be doing, we help if it fits into our scheduled lives. If someone is sick or incapacitated for awhile, we tell them; "we'll be praying for them." If we do actually involve ourselves, we put it on our calendar for a couple days and see that as a sufficient amount of time given our own crammed lives.
About ten years ago, I remember visiting with a friend who was planning for the pending disaster of Y2K . They had taken me downstairs to show me all the food, water and necessities they had been stocking away for this looming crisis. It was incredible, to see all their work in laying this immense supply of provisions. I made the comment that, even though it was a lot of supply, it probably wouldn't last long once the neighborhood found out about it! They'd be THE house of provision for the neighborhood! His response was; "well, I've been thinking about purchasing a gun, just in case something like that would happen. So our provision is protected and we are okay through that time." I blurted out; "You'd shoot someone?" I was glad to hear him say; "no, I don't think I could do that, but I could scare them away!"
Okay, this is not a situation for our normal everyday lives. At least, I hope not. But, it does give an example of what we do all the time. Our focus is not, otherly. Our focus is; me, my, or our. We have lost touch with; they, them, and those. We have lost understanding of community. and even more sad, we as Christians have missed living in relationship with each other as an example to the world around us. "They will know us by our love", is surely not obvious in our daily life interactions.
What if this house of provision, in the above illustration, laid up all these food stores SO THAT they could be a household living in real community for their neighborhood? Isn't that one of the lessons we learn from Joseph and God blessing him with knowledge of pending drought upon the land, SO THAT ultimately God would be revealed and His people seen as a blessing of His love?
What if we began to really enter into each others lives in ways that cost us something, inconvenienced us, or meant that we might not have enough for ourselves?
Maybe we can learn this without a disaster that would force some of this to happen. That is my hope. I'm getting tired, at my age, of learning things the hard way. I desire real community. I long for relationships of impact into one another's lives that are on a deeper and truer level than I have thus known. I want to see living in my neighborhood make a difference to those those around me in powerful, life sharing ways. I want to see "Thy Kingdom Come, On Earth As It Is In Heaven".
How about you?
Lord help us....