idea of community cannot be understood outside of the context of his life. His
ideas are not exclusive of the society in which he lived or his religious background, nor are they complete replicas. In his preaching, he used the culture of the society as a base to teach the people. His ideas were constantly being formed by his experiences, the society, and his missionary
idea of community is also not exclusive of the other ideas he formed. For example,
his idea of freedom is a foundation for his idea of community. Paul values Torah
while also expressing that it does not save or provide freedom. Rather, God saves;
and God calls us to freedom and community. Focusing merely on Torah includes
the danger of becoming self-righteous and self-centered. On the other hand, one
who lives in the Spirit of Jesus experiences truth. It gives one the freedom
to be himself in the context of community. Freedom in the Spirit helps to provide
right relationship with God as well as with community. It also calls one to live
in such a way as to improve these relationships.
Paul describes community and our relationship
with one another in many ways. He talks about ekklesia in his later writings as a participation in a heavenly reality.
Paul uses metaphors to describe community such as a family, a body, and a building.
He uses familial words to describe those in community and encourages all to view each other as part of a common family. He uses the word agape to portray the responsibility
each member has toward each other to make sacrifices out of love of the community. This
metaphor of a family shows our common participation in something beyond ourselves.
Paul also uses the metaphor of a body to describe
his view of community. Just like there are many parts of the body with different
functions, so too is there diversity among members working together. No two members
are identical in every aspect and each plays an important role in the community. Also
in accordance with the metaphor, when one part is affected, the whole is affected. Therefore,
the community shares in joy and suffering. Each member is then called to play
their part, using their gifts to benefit the community. With this variety of
roles and each part playing its own, the body becomes stronger. So too does each
member become a more defined individual when he participates in the whole. Diversity
and unity are equally important in the body as well as in the community. Christ
is the source of unity among the members. Paul emphasizes this unity in Christ
as being the goal.
the metaphor of a building and describes Christ as being its foundation. Members
of the community work interdependently. The gifts each member has been given
are for the edification of the community. Each member is to build each other
up through love in Christ. As one grows in maturity toward the likeness of God,
they are also to encourage others in the community. Maturity involves growth
in virtues such as faith, hope and love.
individual is to contribute to the community, so too is the community to benefit the individual. Growing closer to God also involves becoming more united with those around.
Both of these, uniting with God and uniting with others, are a living out of the gospel message. Paul’s idea of community also involves expressions of their fellowship. A person’s baptism signifies his incorporation into a community.
The laying on of hands expresses the community’s fellowship with God and their fellowship with the person for
whom they are praying. The common meal reminds each member of his relationship
with one another as well as their relationship with God. The exchange of kisses
serves as a greeting to one another. Another expression of fellowship is the
sharing of possessions. Members are to share with their community their abundance.
idea of community was formed by many factors. His idea differed from that of
society; the ideas of his communities also differed from his idea. Paul has a
very developed idea of community. It was not formed by unrealistic expectations,
rather it is based off the gospel message and Jesus’ own words. Paul’s
idea of community is still just as applicable and challenging today as it was when he first developed his idea.