The concept of “community” reached a popular level when I was in graduate school in the late 1990s. It had become a way of casually defining people based on their assumed sociological needs. While the idea certainly possessed rigor, I often saw it uncritically used to reduce the impulse to be part of a group to no more than a longing for belonging. In reference to religion, for example, some would offhandedly comment that it offered like-minded people a community without seriously considering the ideas that formed the community and motivated individuals to want to belong to such a group.
Even though some might misuse it, community nevertheless occupies a vitally important role in Christianity. Rather than merely being the result of the desire for belonging, God designed the church as a community built on the foundation of Jesus. It requires participants to understand and believe in Jesus’ authoritative identity and submit themselves to the purposes he sets for the church. As we continue to explore our effort to be like Jesus, we will use Paul’s comments about the church in Ephesians to consider the relationship between Christlikeness and community.