We often read the Bible by ourselves, whether in the study or on the porch with our morning coffee. It’s a good thing to study Scripture on our own, but doing so suggests it was written for personal use. In the early church, however, the Scriptures were read aloud to the community, because many people couldn’t read, and copying books by hand was expensive and time-consuming. Reading Scripture this way implied that it was written to the community, for our collective life together as the people of God.
This communal language is embedded in the New Testament. Most of the yous in the New Testament are plural, written to “you all together.” English doesn’t capture this well, because we use the same “you” whether we’re talking to a friend one-on-one or to a large crowd via a microphone. But the original reads more like our colloquial “y’all.” As in, “Hey y’all, be good to each other and watch how y’all are living as God’s people together.” If you’re from the South, this makes you smile.
So the New Testament carries a strong sense that God speaks to us as a community. Listen to how these verses sound when expressed in the plural: Colossians 1:27 refers to God’s presence amongst His people as “Christ in all of you, the hope of glory.” Philippians 2:5 admonishes the church to “have this attitude in all of you which was also in Christ Jesus.” And Ephesians 2:22 says that in the Lord, “all of you are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” The emphasis isn’t on me; it’s on we.
Scripture was written to us as a community, for our collective life together as the people of God. But if we don’t actively foster community with other believers and read Scripture within that community, there is a real chance that we’ll only experience Scripture to a degree. Personally, Scripture is powerful but it is also powerful in community.
Jesus cares about our life together. He’s concerned about our personal relationships with Him, but He also cares deeply about cleansing us from the things that tear community apart. His goal is to build up our life together as His people, to make us a place where His Spirit resides on earth as in heaven, joining us as a community within the very life of God.
If you’re not involved in a community group, please consider joining one. Some things are only learned in community. We weren’t designed to live life alone.
Jesus, today is a day you’ve given to me to live differently because you are at the center of my life. Lead me to a place of willingness to celebrate my weaknesses and grow through those weaknesses in community with others. Show me the importance of sharing my life with others not only to further my spiritual walk but also to help others further theirs. Lead me, Jesus. Amen.