Life Together

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” ~Psalm 133:1

AtTheCrossWe should never take for granted the great blessing we enjoy to be disciples of Jesus living with and among other disciples of Jesus. Most Christians know nothing first hand about that experience. They live in isolation with family members who do not follow our Christ or in communities where the Son of God is not recognized, or worse, where followers of Jesus are persecuted for their beliefs and practices.

The physical presence of other Christians is a source of great joy and strength to the believer. The imprisoned apostle Paul calls Timothy to come to him in the last days of his life. He remembers Timothy’s tears when they departed and longs to see his beloved son in the faith “that I may be filled with joy.” Remembering the saints in Thessalonica, Paul writes, “night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again.” John knows his joy will not be full until he can come to his own people and speak face to face with them instead of writing to them with ink “so that our joy may be complete.”

At times in their lives these great men of God did not have the fellowship with other believers that we enjoy daily, sometimes hourly. They longed for it. They relished it. They looked forward to it. And they savored it with great delight. Fellowship was everything. It’s what got them through.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this about Christian fellowship in 1934 in his classic work on the community of faith, Life Together:

“What is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us. Therefore, let him who has the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”

We live together in and through Christ Jesus. The fellowship we share together is only in and through our Lord and Savior. Christian friendships should be treasured, never assumed. Time together should be cherished, never avoided. Opportunities to be together should be seized, never scorned.

“About brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God  to love each other. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.” ~1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

Peace,

Allan

9 Comments

  1. Bird lover

    You mention Christians who “live in isolation with family members who do not follow our Christ.”

    Some people in this world agree with you on many things. Others agree with you on few things. The key, in my humble opinion, to relationship is not to what extent we are in harmony in our beliefs. The key is learning to respect the other person, to accept the other as just as well-intentioned as myself, as just a valuable, as just as well-off. If we respect others, it matters not to what extent we agree with them.

    In other words, if there is “isolation with family member who do not follow Christ” it has nothing to do with philosophical differences, but everything to do with love and respect.

  2. Allan

    Wait a second.

    My wife and I, my kids and I, my neighbors and I, can love and respect each other. We can care for each other and work with each other. We can enjoy each other’s company, cheer for the same football teams, and eat at the same restaurants. We can fight for and against the same causes. But if my wife or my child or my neighbor does not share the same purpose in Christ that I do, I still feel isolated in that one single respect. I think most would agree that it is possible to feel isolated and completely alone even while surrounded by people who share mutual love and respect because of differences related to one very important element. And if that element happens to be the single most important thing in one’s life, the very thing that actually identifies that person as a person, then, yes, I’m certain that lonliness or isolation is very real.

    I can genuinely accept those others as just as well-intentioned and just as valuable as myself. But it doesn’t make me feel any less alone in my Christianity if I can’t physically share it with anyone else.

    My comments have much more to do with those who live outside our country. It’s difficult for us to understand what it must be like because most of us, generally, can go days at a time and never meet anyone who doesn’t claim to be a Christian. I’m certain the apostle Paul never dreamed of that as ever being even a remote possibility.

  3. Bird lover

    If our Christianity makes us feel “different” it can certainly make us feel alone. I was merely suggesting it does not have to make us feel different. It does not have to divide. It does not have to cause us to feel unrelated.

    When I have been able to remain humble, I have never had any problems with isolation. I have not always been humble.

  4. Mel

    Bird Lover, what you are speaking of isn’t unity…

    …it’s passivity.

    It’s allowing anything…even something that contradicts your own beliefs to coexist for the sake of peace.

    And while a Christian themselves are called to be and to remain humble they are never called to remain passive.

  5. Bird lover

    Relationship is a matter of love and mutual respect. It is not a function of agreement with respect to beliefs.

    For instance, a Republican and a Democrat can be in a very harmonious relationship characterized by love and mutual respect. Both can, in fact, be professional politicians who are uncompromisingly devoted to their respective philosophies. If they wish, they can respect each other in such a way so that the political differences have no negative effect on their relationship. They can even spend great amounts of time arguing about politics and great energy in advocating their positions without any negative effect.

    The key is to respect each other as equals with regard to integrity, intellect and motives. Extending the concept, it is possible to treat all people with this same respect and, I believe, have good relationships with all people which are not dependent on agreeing as to any particular beliefs.

  6. Allan

    Just a disclaimer:

    I love the fact that this conversation is taking place. I want this blog to facilitate this kind of open and honest discussion. But let it be known this has little, if anything, to do with the original post.

    Having said that, if the U.S. Senate were made up of 99 Democrats and one Republican, and they were all professional politicians who were uncompromisingly devoted to their respective philosophies and lived and worked together in harmonious relationships characterized by mutual love and respect, that one Republican would still feel isolated and lonely. And he would relish any opportunity to fellowship with other Republicans back home, especially if he could only do that once or twice a year. He would be confirmed in his beliefs, strengthened in his resolve, and encouraged by the group. Kind of like what happens when Christians get together.

    Carry on.

  7. Bird lover

    I sort of see your point and sort of do not. Perhaps I am overreacting to terminology. Isolated and lonely? Hmmm? Perhaps analogies lead away from truth rather than toward it, but I will try another.

    Suppose I am passionate, say about the Dallas Cowboys. Suppose I live in Philadelphia. Do I feel “isolated and lonely”? If I were a Cowboy fan living in Philadephia, I might not like the weather and long for Texas, I might miss good Mexican food and I might moan about not being able to watch all the games, but “isolated and lonely?”

    It appears to overstate the problem UNLESS we are created a larger gulf there than has to be. Unless we have trouble relating to Philadelphians because of some prejudices, for instance.

    Maybe not.

  8. Mel

    Just for the record…

    Sports. Politics. Systematic belief in eternal life or damnation.

    …can we really group these three?

    If you are looking for an analogy use this one…

    You’ve run with a group of friends since high school. In the past you partied with the best of them…but you changed.

    You’ve realized that life leads to no where and you struggle to free yourself from the addictions…

    …but your friends don’t.

    To stay with your friends would mean to expose yourself to the very weaknesses you fight against so you withdraw.

    Alone.

    Now as time passes you strengthen yourself and arm yourself with defenses so that you can stand in the midst but the fact still remains…

    …you’ve changed. They haven’t.

    No matter how much love, no matter how much respect, compassion and understanding you pour out…even when you finally accept they aren’t going to change…

    …they still don’t get you.

    So you long for those who do.

  9. Bird lover

    Mel,

    The operative phrase in your reply was “you withdraw.” If you withdraw because you enjoy other things such as attending church and they like to spend most of their free time doing drugs, one can certainly understand the need to find relationships with people who enjoy doing what you do.

    In this since my analogy holds whether we are talking about bowling or religion. If your buddies are fanatically dedicated to bowling and you loose interest in bowling (let’s say you take up an interest in fishing) you will naturally migrate to friends who fish.

    I just think “isolated” is a bit strong in this case. Should one of the old bowling buddies call you up and want to go fishing, I’m sure you would not have a problem inviting him along.

    Transferring to a religious context, let’s say the old buddy is a heathen who likes to fish. Let’s say you are a Christian who likes to fish. Unless you choose to withdraw from him, I do not see where you could not enjoy a day on the lake with the old buddy and thus not feel “isolated.” Unless, of course, “you withdraw.”

    Your “withdrawal” was my initial concern with the original post.

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