It Takes a Village

​Every day, I take a certain exit on the tollway near my house at least twice, and each time I exit, there is a person asking for money. Usually, I recognize the person because there are a few who rotate through that particular exit. One man is missing a leg. One woman appears to have a major issue with her left leg and wears a brace on the leg. One rather tall man has what appears to be a tumor protruding at the top of his neck. 
As I mentioned, I take this particular exit pretty regularly, so I see these people day in and day out. The burden to figure out what to do and give these people is real. So many times I find myself thinking, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” Lately, I found myself asking this question, "What did this person do (or not do) to get to this place?"
When I ask myself this kind of question, one word always comes to mind "Community."
Community. God built us for community.
From the beginning of humanity, we are shown that man did not do well living alone. We still do not do well living alone.
When you have a struggle, a need, and even praise, where do you turn? We should always turn to God first, but who is (or isn't) in your life to help you and be there for you? How do you build your community? What might be holding you back from being a part of community?
There are two examples of community in the Bible that are drastically different. The first example is the account of the four friends who lowered their paralytic friend down to Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). Jesus' fame had grown among the villages and therefore, the houses were packed full of people who wanted to hear from Him directly. The four friends had heard about Jesus, and they knew they had to get their sick friend to Jesus at any cost. The house was full, so they climbed on the roof and tore away the roofing materials and lowered their friend right down in front of Jesus. They risked a lot; they risked injury, they risked getting into trouble by the homeowner, they risked having to pay for damages, they risked being let down (in the event Jesus could not heal their friend), and they risked their faith.
A few things to note. First, the paralytic had friends. He had people he was in community with – people that knew his needs and his limitations. Second, these friends were faith-filled friends who were looking to help their friend. They were friends who would quite possibly, "lay down their lives for their friend." Third, his friends were "all-in." They didn't just leave their friend at the door, ring the bell and run away. They didn't just have someone send a message to Jesus. Even after they lowered him through the roof, they didn't just set him anywhere in the room. They set him directly in front of Jesus, so there would be no doubt that Jesus would see this man. Their faith and their actions allowed them to witness a miracle.

The Bible does not tell us how long this man had been paralyzed. We do not know how long these friends knew this man. Maybe they had known him for years, or maybe they had known him for just a couple of days. Regardless, these friends were close enough to this man that when he needed it the most, they were aware of his needs and got him to the exact place he needed to be to change his life forever.
Now, let's take a look at a different account in the Bible. This particular account is about another paralyzed man who encountered Jesus and received healing. This man had been paralyzed for thirty-eight years and on the day he met Jesus, he was sitting all alone at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15). When he was asked by Jesus if he wanted to get well, he responded by saying, "I can't, sir, for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me" (John 5:7). This man had no idea he was talking to Jesus and had no idea Jesus could be the source of his healing. He sat there all alone at those waters. We do not know how long he had sat there, but we do know that he did not have any friends who cared about his needs over theirs. The other people around the pool could not take their eyes off of the water because they needed to be the first one in the healing water (it was a first come, first serve basis) and not one person had given up their first-in-the-water spot to him.
Where were his friends to carry him into the water? Where was his community?  
Both of these men had a health issue that was known. It is impossible to hide paralysis, however, what about all of those who are facing health issues that are not so easy to see or talk about? What about those who are dealing with emotional and spiritual issues they are desperately trying to keep under wraps due to pride, worry, and fear?
Jesus healed both of these men instantly. Even though we aren't sure of their faith levels, Jesus still responded. He still responds today...that is not the question.
The question is, who is helping you? Who are you asking for help? Do they know you enough to know your needs? Are you intentionally connected with community?
The paralytic man with the four friends knew who Jesus was because he had friends who were able to bring him the news. The man at the pool of Bethesda had no idea who Jesus was because he had no one to care for him. Our community gets us through hard days. They help with tasks. They can pray for us and with us. They can carry us during those difficult days.
I recently read an article that first appeared in Redbook. In the article, a wife whose husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of thirty-six, was being interviewed. Toward the end of the article, she mentioned how her community helped her as she grappled with helping her husband manage his day-to-day and his debilitating disease while still continuing to function as a working mom of four young children. Her community has rallied around her and carries her through this difficult season. They are providing for so many needs that cannot always be met by anyone other than community.
Friend, I do not know what you are carrying today, but you need community. You need to allow community into your life to help you. We can't heal and provide everything...only Jesus can, but we can be His hands and feet as you wait on Him.
The old, “It takes a village” still rings true today. Make sure your village is full of servant, faith-filled friends who care about you and your needs. That’s the kind of community that is sustainable for the long-haul.

Erin Olson

Founder and CEO of Sandalfeet Ministries

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