The challenge for most of us as Americans is that we are individuals. It’s far easier for many of us to be private than vulnerable, busy than available, and isolated instead of interdependent. As a result, we miss out on the joy, blessing and of course, hard work of doing life together.
We have not only been saved into a relationship with Jesus, but we have also been saved into a relationship with Jesus’ people. God is our Father and together we are growing up as God’s kids. So community was never meant to be optional in the Christian life. One of the primary ways God works in us is through other people. Which is why our marriage needs to be rooted in a community of God’s people who value God’s grace and truth. This kind of community is so important for every marriage.
At the very beginning of the Bible, we learn that it is not good for a man to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Ill-suited to do life by himself, God graciously gives Adam a wife. Together, the first married couple would have the capacity for intimate love, meaningful friendship, and the ability to show the world what God is like (Ephesians 5:21-27). They give us the first glimpse of how a husband and wife share a unique and intimate bond. How we leave our families, cleave to one another, and begin to weave a new story that is uniquely ours.
But it is not good for a couple to be alone either.
The rest of the Bible shows us how a healthy and growing marriage was meant to be lived out in the context of community. One of the greatest dangers to our marriage is not just isolation from our spouse, but isolation from other people. We were meant to live in relationship with others who will not come between our marriage but help fight for our marriage. Here are just a few ways we can live in community with and for one another.
The gift of other people is that they know us. They help pay attention to us. They love our marriage and family enough to sometimes even confront us in grace and truth. A community of faith where people are pursuing Christ is a beautiful gift because they delight in honoring God more than keeping us happy at times. They are willing to have the hard conversations. Ask tough questions. I love how Henri Nouwen states this when he writes, “It is far from easy to keep living where God is. Therefore, God gives you people who help to hold you in that place and call you back to it every time you wander off.”
Marriage is hard. It is far more like a marathon than a sprint. There are really good seasons and really tough seasons. Sometimes we need those people in our lives who keep reminding us of what is important. They cheer is up and cheer us on, encouraging us when we feel like we are running on empty. Like the relationship between Jonathon and David, we all need other people who can “strengthen us in the Lord.”
- Wise counsel
The church is a community of people where God’s Spirit dwells. God works through his people to teach us and guide us. We don’t just need anybody to surround us. We need godly people. People who walk by the Spirit, know the truth of God’s Word, people who are humble and honest. These kinds of people are a rare gift. In Hebrew 13:7, the writer tells us to follow the example of godly people. We are to not only seek their wisdom, but pattern our life after their life. We are to “consider the outcome of their life and imitate their faith.”
God’s vision for change always includes other people. Our marriage is no exception. This might look like getting involved in a small group at our church. It might look like getting together on a regular basis with a group of men or women. It could look like seeking out an older couple we look up to for counsel or advice.
Whatever we do, we can’t do it alone. We need the gift of one another – a community where we not only belong, but are growing up to Christ-likeness.