Billy Joel, the American singer/songwriter, sang a great song called 'Piano Man'. Lots of people know it and enjoy singing along to it. I'm even thinking of going and banging it out as a tune on the piano that Dan from 'Pocket Places' has anchored out on Normanton Road for a couple of months - though of course I can't play remotely as well as Mr Joel. But it's a great anthem.
Many people love the song, but may not realise what its about. It is actually all about our need for community and how people crave it, yet may lack it even in a crowd. Listen to these lines:
Now Paul is a real estate novelist,
Who never had time for a wife.
And he's talking with Davy,
Who's still in the Navy,
And probably will be for life.
And the waitress is practising politics,
As the businessmen slowly get stoned,
Yes they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better that drinking alone.
We are wired for community - we need it. We don't function well and our mental (and sometimes physical) health suffers without it. Why is this?
In Genesis chapter 1, the bible says men and women are made in the image of God - which is an interesting and baffling phrase. It's given brain ache to many great theologians as they grapple with it. What is it?
Well it doesn't mean we look like God in terms of eyes, a nose and a face. But it does mean that we reflect something of his character and nature. And one of the amazing things about the view of God we have in the bible is that he is in community in himself!
This opens up all kinds of other discussions of course, which make the mind boggle (though should it be surprising that seeking understand God's nature makes the mind boggle?) But it is amazing to realise there is something about the very nature of God which is a loving community - Father, Son, Holy Spirit. At the heart of God himself we see loving relationships. Amazing!
So as those made in the image of God (whatever that fully means), we get something of a sense of why relationships and community are so important to us. Even though the image is broken in us, this community instinct is still there. And the best and most important kind of community we need is with God himself, and with others who also know him. Together we find ourselves to be part of his kingdom, his family, a new society, a community of faith, love and hope.