From there they continued on to Beer, the well where the Lord said to Moses, “Gather the people together and I will give them water.” Numbers 21:16
Apparently there are blessings, i.e. the water from the passage, that God can only give when we are in community. Moses was directed to gather the Israelites before they could receive the water blessing. God thinks community is important. This is a message for those who prefer to worship God by themselves on a mountain top. I was one of these people in college. I thought I could worship God better by myself on a mountaintop (not with those imperfect hypocrites in a church building). What I failed to see was my own imperfections and hypocrisy — which easily rivalled those of the people I was judging. I don’t think God wants us to be lonely followers. We are to be faithful followers of him all travelling in the same direction rather than rugged individualists complaining about each other along the way.
Why is it better to travel together in community? God seems to be saying to the Israelites and Moses that they will miss out on God’s full blessings, or at least miss something wonderful, that can only be revealed through being in community. Life together in community is messy. One person leaves their dirty underwear in the bathroom, another drips toothpaste on the sink, another leaves their clothes on the floor, and another sings off key. How can we be in christian community without driving each other nuts?
It seems like we need to be able to distinguish between “matters of taste” and “matters of grace”. Matters of taste would be things like music and worship style, sunday school format, and the order of a service. “Matters of grace” would be things like does God love us no matter what we have done? What does God need us to do to help a single mom or a lonely widow? It seems to me that Jesus spent most of his time dealing with “matters of grace” and almost no time dealing with “matters of taste”. So if we are to follow His example perhaps we should do the same.
Christian community requires hard work. It does not seem to come “naturally”. Why not? I think this is because our battle for cohesion and community is not strictly within the earthly realm. There is a spiritual realm and there is a battle going on for our souls. C.S. Lewis provided a great fictional view of this battle going on for our souls in the “Screwtape Letters”. His insights into the intrigue and complex battle for our souls is very instructive. As we try to live in community it might be helpful to consider that there may be other voices contributing to our conversations and interactions. These voices can sometimes make it difficult to hear God.
Prayer: Lord encourage me to seek community and be willing to participate in the hard work required to follow you with others.