Building together

Every Friday, I join an online Christian writing community, Five Minute Friday. We are given a one-word prompt and write – unscripted, unedited, pure free-write – for 5 minutes. The prompt this week is Together

Our language is full of expressions and idioms promoting the benefits of working together:

  • Two heads are better than one
  • Many hands make light work.
  • Coming together is a beginning.
  • Keeping together is progress.
  • Working together is success.
  • Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.
  • Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.

On the other hand, we also know expressions warning of division:

  • A house divided against itself will fall
  • Divide and conquer
  • No man is an island

The conclusion is that if we work together on common goals, we can together achieve great things, or at least can make great progress towards the goal, but if we are divided, then progress is severely restricted on both sides.

Of course living together in harmony, though it sounds idyllic in theory, it is extremely difficult.

It requires enormous love to live in harmony with other human beings.

Most of us struggle to love even a few human beings well.

We are most often judgmental, critical, lazy, greedy, irritable, resentful, impatient, controlling, self-willed, ungrateful and self-centred. We are unskilled in resolving disputes and disagreements… at least I am!

But there is hope, because God created us and He loves us. In Jesus He will recreate us and teach us to live in His divine love.

He will teach and equip us to be forgiving, patient, generous, encouraging, kind, persevering, preferring others. He will teach us to go the extra mile and to love as He loves.

Without the love of God in us, true harmonious love is all-but impossible.

We love because He first loved us.

When we love each other, even our enemies, with the love of Jesus, we can transform ourselves and our communities into havens of safety, growth, healing and transformation. We can usher in the Kingdom of Heaven. And others will be attracted to our loving communities and want to come alongside us, because:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35

For this reason Jesus builds His church, and He calls us to help Him to build. As we invite others, by our acceptance and love, to be willing to grapple with each other to build our community of those who love Jesus and love each other.

He never meant for us to be alone in the world. He puts us in families. He puts us in His family. And He wants us to encourage, support and persevere in love in our family, so

let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10: 24-25

family and friends gathering for food and fun together

Can you think of any more idioms and common expressions promoting working together and warning of division and isolation.

Simple Peace or Distraction?

Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.

One of the most difficult challenges of our times, I believe, is the volume and all-pervasive seduction of distraction. Amidst the News, TV, smart phone beeps, buzzes and pings, social media, blogs, radio, newspapers, online articles, You Tube, advertisements… I remember the days when folk would put a notice on their letter-box, politely prohibiting junk-mail – but how do we do that now, when it comes into our homes through so many channels – invited and uninvited? I’m not advocating that all this access to information is a bad thing, indeed, in theory it makes communication and connection with others easier than ever before, but I believe that it overwhelms our limited human capacity. It certainly overwhelms this pea-brained human! Like all good things and neutral things, it is potentially good in moderation! But the mobility and centrality of technology has made it far from moderate in the world I observe.

Over this last year, more than ever before, even with my own attempts at moderation, I’ve found myself so distracted by a wide diversity of opinions – by theories, viewpoints, philosophies and all manner of interpretations of the truth – and that among those I love! Some folk have a strong, clear mindset – they have ‘made up their mind’ and that’s it. They may be called stubborn, narrow-minded, or a whole host of less savoury things by opponents to their way of thinking, but their belief systems are strengthened and fed by algorithms on the computer, choosing their ‘food for thought’, just as browsing in the same shelves of the bookshop, or reading the same newspapers, did in the past.

But I have found myself desperately seeking wisdom and peace! I’m one of those who hears a well-argued point of view and weighs it and finds it compelling – I suspend judgment, if you like – and then I hear an opposing view and I see that one too – equally compelling… I can, and do, find myself buffeted hither and thither by all manner of theories. Today I saw myself stepping out of the storm tossed boat onto the raging waters, but keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Often that is all I can do, not to drown under the huge waves of opinion. It is a battlefield of the mind, or a storm in the mind – a spiritual battle, not a human struggle , and I see where this person is “coming from”, I understand – but it is a distraction, and I need to keep my eyes on Jesus in order to survive. Solution number one – keep my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. One might argue that I should choose a life of no information – and I do find it appealing – indeed I don’t have TV, radio, newspapers, or smart-phone as it is. But I live in this world and I believe that in order to relate to other persons in this world, I need to share some of the same struggles. It is a balance. We each have a different capacity for this, I believe. Perhaps I have less capacity than most!

I have had a few answers to my prayers of late, one is Isaiah 8:11–14

“This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:

“Do not call conspiracy, everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread. He will be a sanctuary.”

And the other answer is a strong call in my spirit to keep everything simple! Jesus doesn’t just call great theologians and charismatic speakers to follow Him, He calls you and me. The whole message of the gospel is about relationship! Jesus’ death on the cross is the contract that guarantees reconciliation with God, spirit and neighbour. In Him all are reconciled (1 Tim 4:10) – brought into relationship, made ‘at one with’ (atonement with) the Creator and all creation. Reconciliation that brings acceptance, wholeness, love and lasting Peace.

We have so many laws and theories and beliefs and often a local legality of our own making, but Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better way – to sit and listen at the feet of Jesus. The most important laws emanate from this relationship of love – first law is (Matthew 22:36-40)“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Relationships of love – with God, with myself and with my neighbour. And how do I do this? – By staying close to God, in relationship with Him, listening to what He is guiding me to, every moment of every day.

There are many who would like to chain us up with legalism and more instructions on how to live, but the simple message of love acts in love towards all – and against love there is no law. Of God’s love and reconciliation through the cross, I am certain, but of all the trappings, shoulds and shouldn’ts, I do not know how to begin to judge. Often theories and theologies and philosophies cause dissension, division and a breakdown of relationship, but love is an action that is visible and promotes growth – it desires only God’s best for the recipient of that love. Love encourages. Love comes alongside a fellow traveller in support and offers to carry their bag and listen… and then places the other’s burdens at the foot of the cross. Love gives what it can to the one who needs it more… Love forgives, accepts, trusts and inspires the other to forgive and accept and trust themselves…

Love is not a particular way of doing things, for all persons for all time, or a set of rules to bind others to, it is fresh manna every morning, to be used as refreshing dew and nourishing food for the purposes of that day… His mercies are new every morning, His anointing is fresh every morning, His presence is here, now… Enquire of the Lord today, for He has fresh plans for today. Today is a new day that the Lord has made. Listen to Him and walk today’s adventure with Your shepherd and those whom the Lord has placed you beside; walk today’s journey beside Him who guides, protects and fights our battles; walk today’s blessed hours amidst the storm, with abundant, fullness of life and in the Peace and Joy of relationship with Our creator, lover and mighty God. Oh what eternal, adventurous Joy!