When I was a young person, I was taught that Jesus had great power. His parables and messages stirred His hearers. Out salvation was the result of His death and resurrection, alone. As the Son of God, did He really need those twelve guys who always seemed to get it wrong, and who ran away when the going got tough?
Even though Jesus is the Son of God, He chose to surround Himself with a community of faith. This group, which finally numbered 12 core group male disciples, as well as women supporters, went with Him everywhere. He ate with them, He taught with them, He argued with them, He prayed with them. What this says to me is that the life with God is meant to be lived in a Christ-centered community. When you are part of a community of faith, there are people around you who have your back. You have folks who, by their love and example, are going to help you to be the best you can be.
In the letter of I Peter, 5:8, we read: "Like a roaring lion, your adversary the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour." That is a scary image, but I like it for this reason. In the wild, how do vegetarian animals protect themselves from lions? They stay in large groups. That way, if one lion comes around, they might be able to fight off the lion all together. If one antelope strays from the herd, the lion has an easier meal. If you would be strong in faith, keep together with the herd. After all, that is the way Jesus helped people to be strong in faith, by bringing them together.
Some of you commented upon my most resent Pastor's Perspective. In it, I wrote about the shooting at Umpqua College in Oregon. As I look back at it, I now see that I missed one of the biggest issues. This most recent shooter, like pretty much all the rest, was very isolated. He, for whatever reasons, did not have friends. He was cut off from the rest of the world, just in an increasingly angry world of his own creation. Isolation. In our "everyone looks out for themselves" world, too many people are allowed to fall through the cracks. Would you heal the world? Make sure that you stay strong in the community of the faithful. Then, look around you. Notice those ones that no one else notices. Make sure that they know that you love them. They may not be able to respond to you as you might like them to do. That is not important. What is important is that every person knows that they are loved, by God and by people, and the only way that message is conveyed effectively is person-to-person.