Goodness and Community
Have you noticed that in the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2, (click here for Sunday’s passage) there are many things that are declared “good,” but only one thing is “not good”? The one thing declared “not good” is that the man should be alone. (Insert your favorite joke about dumb guys doing dumb things.)
We tend to think of “good” as an objective determination. Something is inherently good or not good. Not so in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. Rather, the sense is more like God looked and thought “Yes, this works.” Light and dark – day and night – it works, it is good. Things are deemed good in relation to other things. The primary reason it was not good for the man to be alone was not that he might be lonely. What makes it not good for the man to be alone is that he is without community, without relationship!
The answer God designs is a “helper.” Let me pause here to debunk a common misapplication of this passage. “Helper” is in no way subservient. In fact, the Hebrew word translated “helper” is most commonly used to speak of God in relation to Israel – the Lord is the “helper” of Israel. A better translation might be “completer,” although that is awkward in our language. In any case, there is no sense that the helper is a servant, or worse, chattel.
We are only good in community! for most of us, our first community is family, but as we move through life we can experience community in a variety of settings. And remember that community doesn’t just mean having a few friends. It means lives shared. This is much more than someone to go to the movies with or to commiserate with over a cup of coffee, though we may certainly enjoy a movie or a coffee within community.
The kind of community God desires for us, indeed that He designed us for, does not simply happen by accident. We have to work for it. One way to understand the fall is the breakdown of community – the eating of the apple represented the desire to be complete within himself, to have no need of community with God. He wanted to be like God himself, knowing good and evil. He broke apart the first community and in so doing, brought sin into the world. Part of the price we pay is that we now have to work at community.
What have you done to build community? In your home? In your church? In other places? Where might you build more Godly community?
This column appeared in the October 7, 2018 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.