#FamilyFriday | Do Not Forsake the Community

Do not separate yourself from the community.
— Rabbi Hillel, Ethics of the Fathers 2:5

We're a lonely people. The fiercely independent nature of our society has gradually become an individualistic culture. Look at some of our heroes: Ironman is an egotistical maniac; Black Widow is an emotionally devastated assassin; the Hulk is forced to abandon civilization; Batman sacrifices himself for his city who rejected him. It's enough to say that we as a culture identify with those who are alone.

Many of these superheroes were created by Jews in the 1940s, who had just witnessed 6 million of their family slaughtered and knew loneliness because it was violently forced upon them. But now, we seem to revel in loneliness. We seek it out. We're a digital generation that doesn't know how to have a face-to-face conversation. That viral video of the sorority girls taking selfies at the baseball game is a pretty good summary of where we are today. You know that quote, "No man is an island"? We respond with, "Hell yes I'm an island, now get off my beach."

In some ways, life is easier that way. Especially when it comes to matters of faith, it's easier to avoid conflict if we're an island. Nothing gets somebody storming your white sand beaches like a religious disagreement (unless it's political). It's noble to stick to our guns. I've said, at one time or another, that we're victims of an ignorant society, or an ignorant church, or an ignorant employer. We know the truth and we have to stick to it, because truth stands firm when all else fails. We will be vindicated in the end. Right?

I can't hold onto that position anymore. Somewhere between ironclad beliefs and moral ambiguity, there must be a middle ground that cultivates a healthy society.

I've seen glimpses of it, but it seems to only happen after a disaster. Something so bad happens that people set their differences aside and they unite for the good of the community. People across denominations and religions meet together in one place in peace. Together they mourn, rejoice, and do good deeds. Anything seems possible. For example, hundreds of people flocked to the rescue of the flood victims last month. Or even closer to home, how many times did the greater Altavista community come together to pray for healing for Baby Claire or lend their finances? And they still are through the Claire Parker Foundation! God is surely delighted in his children coming together. He is glorified!

Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting the assembly...
— Epistle to the Hebrews 10:24-25

Hannah and I ask ourselves often, where do we compromise? What is a lasting reward, a healthy community for our children to grow up in (whether they see eye to eye on everything or not), or building our own set of beliefs? Children who grow up in a belief system without a community to support them in it are highly likely to reject those beliefs. The truths that we worked so hard to uphold our whole lives will die out in the first generation to follow us. That's not a legacy at all.

How can I be more like Moses' brother Aaron, who is famous as a man who loved peace and made peace? How can I be more like Jesus, Rabbi Hillel, and others, who encouraged their brothers in righteousness, made peace across borders, and raised many disciples? Or more like the apostle Paul, who made some compromises in order to have fellowship with others, while still holding true to his devout Jewish faith?

A disaster shouldn't be the only thing that brings us together. This #FamilyFriday, what are some ways that we can build up our communities? Let's stop looking for reasons to disagree and start looking for excuses to get along. How can we begin to build a legacy of relationships that will be a blessing for our children and our children's children? Be blessed, and Shabbat Shalom!


Jonathan MitchellComment