We were made for community. God designed us for it. In the Garden of Eden, He created a group of two who were assigned to produce a world-sized community. Here we are today!
I read recently that school-age children don’t feel like they have anyone to talk with. Maybe that’s partially the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on our world, but I think it’s more. Community exists because we have something in common with others. If we can’t figure out what that commonality is, we will never find—or feel like we have found—community. We have to work at it, though, and it can present some challenges.
The church at Rome seems to have figured it out. Look at the names of the people whom Paul greets at the end of the book. Four hard-working women. Married couples who had given their lives and their businesses to spread the gospel. Jews and Greeks who were just about as far apart philosophically as you could get. A name that was common for enslaved servants of Romans, but also names common for Roman citizens. Some scholars suggest that high-ranking Roman officials are listed, and it seems like at least one is connected to Jewish royalty. The names seem to span the Roman Empire’s vast and diverse people groups.
How did they pull it off? How could such a socially, economically, historically and ethnically diverse
group possibly have community? Paul tells us in Romans 15:13 where he prays for those who he named in Romans 16:1–16: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”
It was their common love for Christ and their faith that built the community. They all came from such different backgrounds that we would expect no possibility for real community. Yet it happened because of Christ. They committed themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and to His Word and His plans. Were there conflicts that grew out of their differences? Yes, and we can read about them in Romans 14. Paul also provided the path to healthy community amidst those differences. The “joy and peace” would come through believing, through listening and through applying God’s Word.
That’s what excites me about this issue of the Summit. Scan the table of contents—our alumni and students are building community in such varied ways because of a foundational desire to honor Christ. They are solving problems and creating oneness through Christ. We have always been a “Holding Fast the Faithful Word” and “Think Biblically” school, and God is using that powerfully. I hope we can build even more community in days to come.
James R. Lytle, D.Min.