“Two's company, three's a crowd” - an American Proverb.
Lately, however, I have been hearing teachings about how community is important for people to grow into maturity. Apparently, Ecclesiastes 4:12, supports it clearly - "... A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." A group can make you stronger and it can accomplish greater things too that no man by himself can do. It can get things done faster, given that all members of the team understand the same vision and know the same purpose. Lessons to learn can come from many which could lead to accelerated growth. Proverbs 27:17 has this to say about being in the company of other people, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." It means to say that we get to develop characters that can build us up wiser and smarter.
As good as all that information may seem, a question popped suddenly. Is this really true all the time? Why is it that in the context of our present society, implementation of proposed constitutional amendments take so much time? Why is it that street dwellers are all around the metropolis and you see the kids breathing in lung-damaging substances while they scatter to ask for alms only to hand it over to syndicate leaders? How about deterioration of self-image amidst a bullying crowd? What have we to say about Juan whose addiction to cigarettes and other vices started from peer pressure? Or Ana, the single mom who decided she'll have a baby from anyone, even without marriage, because friends, norms and research tell her that she'll have cervical cancer if she doesn't bear a child at late twenties? They weren't alone. That was community forming them too.
While searching to understand how a community with its apparent benefits really live up to rearing people to maturity, here is a scripture I stumbled on before bedtime. "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20) I see this verse in the light of the phrase "...come together in my name". It signifies agreement and indicates unity among the community of three acknowledging Jesus' name as the reason of their convergence. Although far-fetched to some, I draw two important theories from this reading.
1.) A community is effective when they work for a common vision, purpose, or objective.
2.) A community, despite differences as individuals, must have a common identity.
In the case above, the three is a community of Christians united for a single purpose. Hence, the Lord confirms habitation.
Applying all these lessons to the early assumptions, I objectively look at community as a make or break approach towards maturity. Encamping among people of good manners develop the appropriate breeding and achieves the kind of growth you expect for yourself. On the other hand, choice of bad companions can likely corrupt good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). I do not discredit, however, the 10% possibility that it can happen otherwise where you make others change at your influence instead. It happens, not frequently though. Either way, there has to be a guiding objective or mission for it to work.
And on whether it is "I" or "us", I would say that both aren't bad ideas. To swear that growth strictly happens only in a community is quite a generalization. There are things you learn by personal study, and there are those you learn better from other people. On rate of growth, lessons learned in a community is speedy - Maybe. Like in the idea of algae competing for oxygen in a body of water, too many can also mean limited growth. Some even die so the rest can thrive. Jesus took time to pray in a quiet place by himself without disruption from others. We cannot bring community with us or let others meddle on personal matters about ourselves all the time. In the same way, we cannot always keep our happiness or sadness all by ourselves. We also have the need for sympathy, affirmation, and companionship of others.
In closing, a crowd of three, four, nor five, isn't really bad if each member identifies to a common niche and functions for the same objective. And doing things by and for yourself at times is not sin at all. If all's done for the glory of the One who befriended us at our worst, none can go wrong.