Today we’re going to start with a little quiz. Our theme is community, but that’s all I’m telling you for now. Ready?
What do all these have in common?
- John Wayne
- Teddy Roosevelt
- The Grinch
These are all examples of people, animals or creatures who think they can do life on their own. John Wayne saved the day, single-handedly, in every movie he starred in. Toddlers are infamous for declaring that ‘I do it myself’. TR, one of our most famous presidents, is the poster-child of ‘Rugged Individualism’. Tigers spend their entire adult lives on their own. And the Grinch lives high up on a cliff, in seclusion, far from Whoville below.
I’d like to add one more ‘creature’ to this list:
The typical, American male.
Like the characters from our quiz, us guys tend to think that we can do life on our own. Without being in the sort of rich, deep community God calls us to.
In most cases, it’s not that we consciously believe not having ‘real friends’ is fine. It’s more that we just don’t see it as a pressing need and don’t actively pursue it very hard.
Maybe you’re one of those guys. Or, maybe not. Either way, we can all benefit from pursuing community with other men more deeply. So let’s take a look at why we struggle, and what real, biblical community looks like.
It’s a worthy quest.
I know I was ‘that guy’ until maybe the last year or so. I had tons of casual friends, acquaintances and people I was ministering to in one way or another.
But no real friends. No one who really knew me deeply.
Why is this a big problem for so many of us men?
Each of us are different, but here are some common parts of our pathology:
- time – between work and family (if we have one), it feels like there’s not much time left. Especially as a young dad, I remember feeling like I owed it to my family to use all of my discretionary time with them.
- less felt need – people can vary tremendously on their need for time with others, but most guys feel less of a need for friendship than most women. Part of that may be our culture, but part of it is probably God’s design for us as men. We’re simply not as relational on the whole.
- few examples – many of us haven’t experienced models of guys making community a priority. If others aren’t making it a priority, it can seem like it’s not all that important for us, either.
- sacrifice required – being in real community takes a lot of effort, honestly. You have to give up some ‘me time’, and take initiative, to make it happen.
- fear of being known – We know on some level that getting close to others means letting them see stuff we may not really want them to. For example, I can be really intense and driven. My family sees that because we live together, but I don’t always like others to see that because… well, it’s not always very godly.
For all these reasons – and more – we’re not always eager to embrace real community. No doubt you can think of others.
The Importance of Community
But even though community doesn’t always feel like a natural fit, God’s Word is really clear. Community isn’t just beneficial; it’s essential.
Look at this (very, very) brief survey:
- God is community. Before God ever made us, he had his own community. The doctrine of the Trinity comes from the Bible, and teaches that God is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see, for example, Paul’s benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14). God Himself is a diverse, yet unified, community where love rules.
- God calls men to community. Psalm 133 has community as its theme: ‘Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!’ (v.1). David and Jonathan enjoyed the closest of friendships (1 Samuel 18:1-5; 20:1-42). The New Testament expands on this theme, giving us (at least) 59 ‘one another’ passages, which tell us how to live in community, and assume it’s a worthy goal. For three years, Jesus and his 12 disciples spent 24/7 in community. And Jesus makes unity and community his theme in his final major prayer. He asked ‘that [we] may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you’ (John 17:21).
What Community Looks Like
So, we’ve seen why it’s hard for us to do community well, and, that God places huge importance on it. But what does biblical community look like?
This is one of those questions that entire books are devoted to, but let’s talk about some of its main contours from the story of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-5; chapter 20).
- crazy love. Before Jesus spoke it, there was a 2nd great commandment love between the two friends. ‘As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.‘ (1 Samuel 18:1). What would it look like to love someone else as much as you love yourself? David and Jonathan’s friendship gives us a living, breathing picture.
- commitment. ‘Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul’ (18:3). Notice how love leads to commitment. Real love means we’re committed to our friends. We’re not walking away, no matter what.
- no threat. It’s easy to be jealous of our friends when they’ve got one up on us. By birth, Jonathan was next in line for the throne. So he had every reason to be jealous of David, who was starting to look like he might be God’s next choice as king. But instead of being jealous, he gave David some of his most valuable belongings (see 18:4). Love means we celebrate our friends’ strengths, accomplishments and possessions.
- trust with our deepest stuff. Real love and community means letting others in on the things that are most important and touchy to us. David came to Jonathan when he felt like Jonathan’s father, Saul, was (literally) ready to kill him (1 Samuel 20:1). When we’re living out this kind of community, we proactively let our closest guy friends in on things like struggles with spiritual dryness, pornography and failure.
- speaking the truth. Real community means challenging our friends’ perspective when they need it. Jonathan told David he was wrong about Saul (20:2). Even though David turned out to be right, their friendship was a safe place to offer a rebuke. This is one of the hardest things for us to, but one of the truest marks of real friendship and community.
- God at the center. More than anything, real community is never first horizontal. It’s vertical. Jonathan gave voice to this when he told David, ‘the LORD is between you and me forever’ (20:23). When God is our first and highest Friend, it gives us the foundation to actually do everything in the list above.
Again, more could be said, but those are six key features of real community we can experience as men.
I had planned on sharing some tips for how to put this into action, but we’ve gone long enough. I’ll save that for another post.
Why else do you think men struggle with community? And what other things contribute to real community among men? Share it with us in the comments below!