Our Western Individualistic Lens
Individualism is so pervasive that it has become the lens through which we view and
understand our lives, including our spirituality. It is the lens through which we view
the Bible. Yet, community is so core to God’s nature and purposes that it undergirds
everything that is implicitly inferred or explicitly stated on every page of the Bible.
If we can rediscover what it means to be a community – the kind of community where
all barriers are broken down and where our lives reflect the original vision of the
gospel - then we will play a much more effective part in ushering in God’s Kingdom.
Reading the Bible through a communal lens
When we read the Bible with a communal lens we find that God’s purposes are not
so much about rescuing individuals as they are about creating a vibrant, loving and
supportive community among whom he can dwell. He wants to invade the space
between us as well as dwell within us.
This understanding begins in Genesis 1 where we discover that the essence of being
human is the need for relationship. It is developed throughout the Old Testament
as God seeks to form a community that he can dwell amongst – a community that is
characterized by shalom.
Sadly, the people of Israel are unable to be that community. Instead of being
inclusive of every member of their community, widows, orphans and others, many
were left out. Worse than that, the poor were exploited and faced injustice at the
hands of those who led them. Something needed to change.
A New Era
The New Testament opens with that change in mind. Jesus arrives and begins to
proclaim that a new era is dawning. One where a community of people is being
formed who will live lives of inclusion, vibrancy, health and justice; where shalom
characterizes their lives and relationships. That community gives a visible face to
the good news of God’s Kingdom and it’s called the ‘Church’. Many New Testament
Writers then give us insights into the shape of this ‘Church’ where all barriers are
broken down and Jew and Gentile are ONE.
The Bible then finishes with a beautiful picture of this community when it is fully
renewed in the new heaven and earth that is God’s final purpose for the future.
Yes, when we read the bible through communal lenses we end up with a much larger
and greater understanding of God’s purposes within which we as individuals fit.