Culture has a tendency to quietly whisper in our ear that independence is a beautiful thing– but we were made for so much more than being independent.
We value the concept of being self-made, culture tells us that we must be primarily true to ourselves, and having an independent personality is generally seen as a strength. Culture tells us these things…but the message of Jesus does not.
With the powerful waters of culture surrounding us from the moment of birth, we unintentionally end up with a faith that is often more influenced by aspects of the culture around us than a faith rooted in the undiluted, radical message of Jesus. As we live out a faith that is blindly infused with an individualistic culture, we end up with a distorted approach to faith that leaves us lonely, isolated, and alone.
In order to not only rediscover the radical message of Jesus, but in order to actually have a shot at living this out in an authentic way, we must return to the truth discovered in God’s original plan for humanity—we need to return to the beginning. In returning to the beginning, we are able to see that we were not made to be completely independent as culture too often teaches us, but instead were designed to live in undiluted community with others—something reaffirmed in the life of Jesus.
The Creation Poem of Genesis 1 tells a beautiful story of the God who masterfully created everything. The author of Genesis goes on to tell us that when God finished with the process of creation he stepped back, had a good look, and pronounced that all of it was “good.”
God created light…and God saw that it was good.
God separated land from the sea…and God saw that it was good.
God created vegetation…and God saw that it was good.
God created the sun and the moon…and God saw that it was good.
God created the animals of the seas…and God saw that it was good.
God created the animals of the land…and God saw that it was good.
God created humanity…and God saw that it was good.
Clearly, God was happy with everything he created, and pronounced every single part of it to be “good.” However, God had yet to create a second human; the Adam figure of the poem was completely alone. God notices this and in Genesis 2, when he looked at a single human being living alone, outside the context of community, we finally hear God say something he hadn’t said before:
“It’s not good to be alone,” God pronounces.
God knew it wouldn’t be healthy for Adam to live life on his own, outside of community with others. That, God said, would not be good. To rectify the situation God created the first community of two, and invited them to experience life together in intimate and meaningful ways. Seeing that community, relationships, and an authentic sharing of life with others to be good and beautiful, God actually commands them to go out and make even more community, together.
Living life as an individual apart from authentic and intimate communal relationships was never part of the deal. From the first humans created, God created us to be communal beings who crave, and actually need, to live life in the context of authentic, interdependent relationships with others.
We were created for community.
We even see that God himself wanted “in” when it came to this new community, as he took afternoon walks with them during the cool part of the day—building and participating in community with them. God even went looking for them when He realized the relationship had been damaged and needed restoration, as one does in the context of authentic, communal relationships.
From the very beginning we were created not for rugged individualism and independence, but for community with others. As we rediscover the radical message of Jesus, we find that He reaffirms not our cultural appreciation for individualism, but God’s original plan that we do life in the context of community.
We were created as relational beings for the purpose of enjoying community with the divine, and one of the primary ways God intended that to be experienced was in and through authentic, intimate relationships with other people. Our ability to most fully experience the divine is directly linked to our ability to most fully experience relationships with other human beings.
One without the other is not the undiluted life in community God created us to experience.
Someone once asked Gandhi for a sermon, and his reply was, “My life is my sermon.” In the same way, we see how Jesus chose to live his adult life as perhaps one of his most potent sermons of all. While our contemporary Christian culture places value on the unholy trinity of buildings, bodies, and bucks, Jesus—the wisest teacher who ever lived and central figure in human history—was a homeless man who instead lived his life investing in authentic community with twelve close friends. We see them wrestle with the radical nature of his message together, share meals together, serve the poor and hungry together, and share life’s burdens with one another.
It is easy for us to look at the gospel narrative and mistakenly see Jesus and his disciples as simply a traveling teacher with his traveling students—but the story is much more than that. Throughout their time together we see that this was a mutual, two-way community, with Jesus not only leading his disciples, but serving them as well, as we see him gently wash their dusty feet. We find Jesus not only comforting and sharing the burdens of his disciples, but also asking them to share his own burdens, too. In fact, on the last night of his life, we see Jesus practically beg them to sit up and keep him company during his darkest ours—as fear and anxiety over the future nearly overwhelmed him.
The Son of God himself did not want to bear the burdens of life outside the context of relationship with others.
Jesus, the Son of God, was able to walk on water, make food appear out of thin air, was able to liven up a party with the water-to-wine miracle, told a storm to knock it off, he was able to make lame people walk, blind people see, deaf people hear—even putting a severed ear back on a person, and even told a man who had been dead four days to wake up.
But there is one thing that Jesus didn’t do, and didn’t want to do. Jesus didn’t want to experience the ups and downs of life outside the context of close, authentic relationships.
Jesus, the second member of the trinity and the one who created the entire universe, needed a community of close friends with whom to share his burdens.
The radical message of Jesus tells that that not even God wants to live outside of authentic community with others.
So, the question we need to start asking becomes: if Jesus himself needed to live out his faith in the context of community, why do we so often fool ourselves into thinking we can do it alone?
The life of Jesus teaches us many things, but among the most important is that the best way to live life is not through a hyper focus on individualism or independency, but through a conscious decision to share our lives, openly and authentically, with those around us.
Jesus teaches us that a life best lived, is a life lived together.
This post was an adaptation from Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus. You can order your own copy, here.