Building an authentic Biblical community takes more than just weekly attendance – it requires an intentional opening up of our hearts to one another. Deep relationships don’t just happen because we spend a few hours together in the same room once a week, because it’s so easy for us to throw on a façade to cover up the reality of our lives.
In 1 John 4:20-21, the Bible says “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” Our love for God is manifest in our love for people, for the Christian life was never meant to be lived alone.
Innate in each person is the desire to be part of something larger than ourselves and to experience real connection with others. Yet the concept of community goes head on with our fear of rejection and being different. We want to feel part of a tribe or community, to feel love and a sense of belonging so much so that we may compromise our true selves in order to fit in and gain approval.
This is not only an inferior stopgap for connection but it can become an obstacle to authentic relationships. We end up feeling lonelier in the midst of a crowd because our true selves were never brought to the table!
The happiest people are ones who open their hearts and let others share their lives. A true sense of belonging is forged only when we present our most authentic self to the community. Self-disclosure is key to deep, meaningful relationships. Yet that also brings vulnerability, uncertainty, and risk. If I open up my heart, will it be met with love, acceptance, and understanding? Or with rejection and disdain? We’re so uncomfortable with feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty that we’d try ways and means to avoid them. So we build emotional walls around ourselves thinking that they’d prevent us from being wounded, not knowing that we’re imprisoning ourselves within these walls.
This self-preserving, self-protecting way of relating to one another produces a sterile environment that looks good externally but is superficial. We put on defensive ‘armour’ to avoid feelings of fear, insecurity, anxiety, shame, and uncertainty. We may feel safe and a sense of control momentarily but it’s really doing us more harm than good. We never become known by the people around us and the community never gets close enough to sharpen one another.
‘Koinonia’ is a Greek word that appears in the New Testament 20 times. It primarily means ‘oneness in friendship, fellowship, and relational commitment’. The essence of ‘koinonia’ is believers in Christ coming together in love, intimacy, friendship, faith, and encouragement. It also denotes a relationship which is one in heart and purpose. True ‘Koinonia’ can happen only with vulnerability and self-disclosure, when we bring our true selves to the table and wear our hearts on our sleeves.
Being part of a community can feel like navigating a labyrinth of emotions, fear, challenging people, and deep uncertainty. We may feel part of a tribe, a movement, a family, and at other moments feel alone, different ,and disconnected from everyone else. Therefore, realise that vulnerability and self-disclosure take great courage.
Take small steps to bring the relationships in your life deeper and be encouraged when you do. Let go of the misgivings you have about what others think of you. Most people are not focused on you but on their own issues. Relational wounds can only be healed relationally. Without vulnerability, there can be no love, intimacy, and belonging.
We must open our arms if we want to be held, and open up our hearts if we want to be loved. As we move towards one another in courage and love instead of shying away, may we achieve ‘koinonia’ – becoming one in heart and purpose.
Not one person on earth can live in isolation. Community and belonging cultivate life and onward movement. The Lord commands in John 13:13-35 that we love one another as He loved us. May the contagious nature of the love we have for one another in Cornerstone draw others from outside into this family, that all will know we’re His disciples.
Ps. Sng Peh Han