One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31

The events of this past week have been incredibly thought-provoking.  What does it mean to be a “community” in a digital age?

I’ve had the great privilege of becoming acquainted with an amazing group of people through a message board for the fans of Rebecca Wells’ YaYa Sisterhood series.  Our relationships developed well beyond the plot and characters of the YaYas.  We became a sisterhood in our own right.  I can honestly say that I have deep emotional connections with a group of ladies, most of whom I’ve not met in real life. 

This week, one of my online friends passed away at the tender age of 36 from breast cancer.  She was so open and honest and transparent about her struggle.  Our online community rejoiced and wept with her for her entire journey.  My heart breaks for her parents and her children who will have to go on without her.  Should my loss be diminished because I never actually met her face to face? 

This week, we also lost a literary giant.  I don’t think a single day goes by that someone, somewhere isn’t posting a meme to Facebook that has a Maya Angelou quote.  Her work and her life transcended all barriers.  She was able to touch an amazing level of truth that resonated with everyone regardless of race, religion, or affluence.  I never met Ms. Angelou and yet I mourn her passing.  I’m saddened by the idea that there will be no new wisdom shared by her. 

So what is community in this digital age?  We have Facebook “friends” in the hundreds, some of which we’ve never actually seen outside of our monitors.  While we hear a lot about the anonymity of the Internet, it seems to me that there are a lot of connections being made as well.  I have friends who live on three continents.  People that I never would have known but for my computer.  People with whom I’ve shared love and loss and heartbreak and pain and triumph.  People that I’ve earnestly prayed for and who have prayed for me.  People who share my faith and people who don’t. 

Jesus talked a lot about loving our neighbor, not just as a theory, but in practicality.  If we are truly living in a global community, then our neighborhood is a whole lot bigger than we ever imagined.  That means we have much more opportunity to love.  There is no commandment greater than this.