The Healing Power of Community

The Healing Power of Community August 29, 2018

I have to share a video with everyone about addiction – which is not the subject of this article per se – but there’s something in this video that I want to highlight.

Take a look:

 Hopefully, you watched the video. If so, the key to the video is where they reveal that one of the strongest weapons against drug addiction is community.

One great quote from the video is this one:

“Human beings have an innate need to bond and connect. When we are happy and healthy we will bond with the people around us. But when we can’t because we’re traumatized, isolated or beaten down by life, we will bond with something that gives us some sense of relief. It might be checking our smartphones constantly. It might be pornography. It might be gambling, etc. but we will bond with something because that is our human nature. The path out of unhealthy bonding is to form healthy bonds – to be connected to people who you want to be present with. Addiction is just one symptom of the crisis of disconnection that’s happening all around us. We all feel it. “

And the absolute best quote of all is this one:

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

I would like to substitute the word “community” for “connection”.

In almost every single conversation I have had with various people over the last few months, the theme of community, and the evidence that what people need more than anything else is community, has been unmistakable.

Some of these were conversations with homeless people, others were conversations with small business owners and with self-employed entrepreneurs. Some of these people were lifelong friends and some of them were practically strangers to me. But in every case the solution to their inner struggle was to find a community of people who would love them for who they are and provide a stable support system for them when they felt weak, or lonely, or tempted to return to bad habits.

What does all this mean? It means that the Ekklesia of Christ is what people are looking for most. They all want, and desperately need, a place to belong. They crave a true family of people who will offer love and acceptance. They are dying to find a community of support and faith that gathers around Jesus and looks to Him for love, hope, relief and peace.

Bottom line: We were not made to survive alone. Community is what connects us to life. Ekklesia is what connects us to Jesus and to one another.

Sadly, the barriers to finding community are numerous. Many people are surrounded by those who would love to welcome them and embrace them into a community of faith, but for various reasons these people cannot – or will not – make the decisions necessary to prioritize community over things like work, or sleep, or convenience.

That’s been the most frustrating thing for me, honestly. I’ve listened to these different people as they share their brokenness and I see how being surrounded by a loving community of fellow Christians would alleviate their suffering and propel them into a healthier lifestyle. But in nearly every case the person has one excuse or the other about why they must remain alone, or isolated. In some cases the person is reaching out for community but is constantly sabotaged by an unrealistic expectation of perfection in other people. So, when people within a community prove to be flawed, that’s enough for them to justify disengagement.

What I’d love to do is to connect all of these different people to one another, or to help them discover a community of believers who could help them to see and experience the presence of Jesus more powerfully. But as desperate as some people are for community and connection, the truth is that there is a cost and sadly many are not willing to give up what they have to realize it.

What I’m learning is that Ekklesia as God designed it is exactly what people need to be happy and healthy and productive. But at the same time, there is an Enemy who works day and night to place roadblocks and obstacles in the way to make sure they never actually get connected to Christ through His Body.

Loneliness is a powerful weapon. It crushes people. It strips them of the connections they need for life. It can even kill someone with enough sustained exposure.

Yes, loneliness is powerful. The only thing more powerful than loneliness is love.

My prayer is that those who need love most will have the courage to do whatever it takes to find connection and to experience the community of Christ before it’s too late.

**

Keith Giles new book Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

JOIN ME IN BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: Sept. 15 at “Proactive Love: How Loving Our Enemies Changes Everything”Register HERE>

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • MHO what comes around goes around…Philippians 2.5-8

    5
    Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
    6
    who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.
    7
    Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form,
    8
    He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death– even to death on a cross. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a53731206391d3401061cb316b2c45e3dbbf4d05d6c6ae451ebfb56b2be4f822.png

  • jekylldoc

    I’ve been convinced for some time that shalom is in community. I appreciate that you point out people sometimes reject that because of their own . . . what? Fears, I’m tempted to say, but that might be oversimplified. Their own complications? One way to think about the Spirit is that life is breathed into us by a wind strong enough to blow away the accumulations of debris in which we bury ourselves. All those things we thought were going to give us peace. Could it be that community is the gentlest wind the Spirit has to offer?

  • jekylldoc

    Okay, but the Bly quote kind of contradicts the Philippians quote. There’s emptiness of loss that we accept beforehand, I guess, and there’s a different emptiness that drives us toward other people?

  • This emptiness of loss that one accepts beforehand… could you be referring to old age? I find as I am approaching more Elder years that this appalling scripture applies to me!!
    John 21:18
    “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.”

    Here is a quote by Leonard Cohen:
    We’re always experiencing joy or sadness. But there are lots of people who’ve closed down. And there are times in one’s life when one has to close down just to regroup.
    … And here’s another…
    “What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b45be4df566678d29796ade627b73d029da05907e10ce713af127e84b163838b.jpg

  • Widuran

    The best communit is given in the scriptures

    Romans 12:5
    So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

  • jekylldoc

    Sure, old age and its physical and psychic challenges is a good example of the loss that we, at best, are ready for. I don’t think it has to be the emptiness that Bly suggests we should be motivated to get away from, but it can be.

    I am still wrestling with the tension between the two insights. The self-emptying by Jesus is what Henri Nouwen called the “downward path.” Emptying ego, so determining to accept the loss of the stuff our self-esteem used to rely on.

    I suspect that Bly is looking at emptiness of meaning – having no sense that what we do matters. Moving toward other people, sometimes desperately, could realistically begin with wanting to shun that feeling of meaninglessness. That’s sort of like the people who are clinging to their debris who try to pull them together into a raft, rather than settling for a salutation, right?

  • What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood? Push them under. Then make sure they drown. Take control of their resources… (I keed, I keed!)
    What has been happening with me for years now is the chance to get to know the entity behind the curtain and experience the miracle of healing: body, mind, spirit… I have a daily reprieve from a killer disease. I have been given a community of hope, strength, love that supports my heart & sobriety. And YOU, dear doc! https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1e2fe6ded159ae8717b708d43f43c98d94a365f1ddf99865091506ae289c6b71.jpg

  • jekylldoc

    Hey, you could be a bankster. Push them under and make sure they drown. Load them up with debt. Charge a fair(ly high) rate of interest. That’s how you get hold of their resources. If you are in a hurry, you could try pointing a gun at them, but I promise the percentage is much better in finance.

  • I wouldn’t presume! Have you ever heard what happened to the guy who invented and perpetrated the lobotomy? What comes around goes around…

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  • Pennybird

    Some of us reject religious community (if, in fact, that’s what you are getting at) because we just can’t get behind the beliefs. I am not fearful of religion, but most of it leaves me scratching my head. Many loud believers have made their religious community distasteful as well, what with wholesale rejections of different kinds of people. I know for sure I’m unwelcome there.

  • jekylldoc

    I don’t particularly apply “shalom is in community” to religious communities only. There are hippie communes that do the same thing, and David Brooks at the Times is making a career of finding communities of purpose that don’t particularly live together or even in close proximity. The important thing, it seems to me, is that our sense of worth and our sense of purpose are both tied up in the projects of the community, so that we will naturally engage with the others in a genuine, not a manipulative, way.

    Addicts are often cut off from a sense of worth as well as a sense of purpose, and it is not easy to get them back in with people. It is rather sad, (but not a huge surprise) that religious communities often would have no chance because they have based their sense of worth and of purpose around what we might call “respectability.” Originally that had a lot to do with sexual fidelity, for men as well as women, and made a lot of sense. But it became legalistic, and so the impulse to insist on “respectable” behavior was translated onto sexually non-conforming and even gender non-conforming people. If a religious community can’t even bring itself to accept non-conforming people, there is not much chance it will be able to embrace self-destructive people.

    Distasteful is just the beginning. I would argue that there is a fundamental sickness in such a community that hinders them from fostering shalom in general. They are going to be undermining people’s sense of worth as a means to their own sense of purpose. The Prodigal’s older brother, basically.