Community and Flourishing – by Dr. Anne Bradley
Even as early as Genesis 2:18, when God said “It is not good for man to be alone,” it’s evident we’re designed to live in community.
God gave Eve’s companionship to Adam, and he gave his own to both. Even today, after the Fall, we’re given into a family and called to live in community with others.
Sadly, because this is a broken world, our ability to live well in fellowship with others is faulty. This manifests itself when we try to take from others in codependent relationships or try to avoid others by seeking total independence.
We are called to live in healthy interdependence with others, and this is the kind of relationship we need to seek with those around us.
Some people approach community without accounting for individual initiative, and this leads to great misunderstandings.
Individualism is often misunderstood as advocating complete independence. Sometimes, it might seem easier if we were independent of others.
But in reality, the world would be a much darker place without fellowship and without the benefits of mutually beneficial market exchange.
Taken to its extreme, though, there is danger also when people rely too closely on others.
Codependence is often held up as the opposite of independence, and in some ways this is accurate. It is on the other end of the spectrum of unhealthy relationships, corporately and individually.
In codependent relationships, we find ourselves relying on someone else to meet our needs in some way, and this is highly unhealthy, regardless of the scale. Whether explicitly or not, welfare programs promote unhealthy codependence because they enable individuals to rely on crutches well after the original immediate need has passed.
Tom Hanks’s character in Castaway comes to mind when I think about the importance of community to flourishing.
When he arrives at the island, he has everything one could desire, but his success is hampered. He finds ways to make do with what’s on the island, but all of his time is consumed by survival measures. Without companionship, he cannot flourish.
Though we can’t operate when we rely too much on others, we still require others to truly succeed.
When everyone contributes that which they have produced through the proper application of their talents through mutually beneficial exchange, everyone benefits. God designed each of us to have the perfect combination of skills and talents, and he wants us to use them for his glory and our good.
Dear God, Thank you for the community you have placed around me. Although it may be difficult at times, it is where you have chosen to teach and guide me through others. Remind me daily that I represent you to those in my community, especially when I get frustrated. Bless my relationships and help me to bless those around me. Amen.
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Anne Bradley, Ph.D. is Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org).
CLS is working with the Institue for Faith, Work & Economics (IFWE) to provide thoughtful and inspiring devotionals to CLS members. IFWE is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) Christian research organization committed to promoting biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society.