“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Recently someone asked me, “What does ‘do life together’ mean?” Internally I began to rattle off a number of things that sounded like common Christian talk but mid-thought I had to stop and ask myself the same question. I’ve heard those verses several times before. Until recently they’ve never really hit home. As I aim to lead The Well family closer to the image of Jesus, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot in regards to community but what does it mean? Community? Doing life together?
Over the past week I’ve seen several things that echo the truth of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. I’ve seen both the good and the bad. I’ve heard about and personally dealt those who have pulled away from community. I also had the incredible opportunity to experience real community firsthand. In these experiences I have seen Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 play out.
The writer (who many believe to be an aging King Solomon) is sharing the importance of community with his readers. He shares the positives of being in community and the drawbacks of not being in community. The writer shares “two are better than one.” Why? “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” What does that mean? It simply means two can do more together than one. He then shares how with two people one can pick the other up when he or she falls. Again he says “if two lie together, they keep warm.” Think about being stuck out in the wild during a freezing winter night. Would you want to be by yourself or with someone else who might be able to keep you warm with their body heat. It’s about survival. The writer then imagines a fight. Someone might be able to beat up one person, but not two. He concludes by simply stating three is even better than two.
If the advantages of community weren’t enough to persuade someone, the writer then shares some of the disadvantages to not being in community. First, he warns “woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.” He warns again “how can one keep warm alone.” The point is simply this: a person can only do so much by himself. Many circumstances in life cannot be dealt with individually. All of this proves the importance of community.
What I have seen recently is people begin to pull away from community. As they do so they become more independent, more unstable, and ultimately more in danger. When people pull away they are more apt to fall as the writer of Ecclesiastes points out. Often people share that they are in a busy season in their life and they just don’t have time for community. Brad House in his book Community writes about this saying:
I am often confronted with the claim that a person is not active in the church community because of a lack of time. “I just don’t have time right now…Maybe in the next season of life.” What a crock. The issue is not, and never will be, time. The issue is our desire. When our community gives us life, we will always find time for it. We will change our schedules to accommodate it, and we will want others to experience it. We must find out what is strangling the life out of our communities and begin to live in community in such a way that it brings glory to Jesus and transforms lives. When the glory of Jesus inspires passion and zeal, we will be surprised at how much time we find (154).
I agree with Mr. House. I think we find as many excuses as we can to fight community. That seems odd but it is true. We are either neck deep in sin, fighting community or we believe community is not important. We need community because we need each other. We need to be helped, prayed for, and loved. If we try to do life on our own we fall deeper into sin and deeper into depression. We do because God did not create us to be loners.
Enough with the negative stuff. I want to share with you a good picture of community I’ve experienced recently. There is a woman in our church who has been struggling with some things for a long time. Finally, she could not take it any longer and shared this struggle with her community group. They prayed with and loved her through it. Later that community group leader and his wife shared this with myself and the other pastors. Just recently we had the incredible opportunity to pray for her and encourage her as she battled through some of her issues. As I sat with her, her husband, her community group leaders, and the other pastors, I immediately realized what great community she had. If she would not have had such community no one would have been personally praying for you.
It breaks my heart every time I see someone slowly slip out of community. As I quickly reach to try to bring them back into community, they often think exiting community is the best thing for them. Inevitably some never return to community. I’m thankful for those who do return. Those are the ones who, although they’ve walked away from community, come running back realizing their need for it. Whatever you and I do, let us not run away from community but embrace it. We must fight for community. We have to fight our independent and sinful nature. Community simply will not come naturally. So next time you feel the urge to run away from your community remember: “two are better than one.”