Sunday, August 22, 2010
©2010 Narrowgate Publishing
“And I pray that you,
being rooted and established in love,
may have power together with all the saints,
to grasp how wide and high and long and deep
is the love of Christ, and to know this love
that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled
to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
“In Him the whole building is joined together
and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
And in Him you too are being built together
to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
“When the day of Pentecost came,
they were all together in one place.”
“All the believers were together
and had everything in common.”
How can we understand the “togetherness” depicted here in the Scriptures if we do not understand the meaning of the word?
In our modern, affluent, tech-driven societies, we have lost the ability to be “together.” We have developed the art and science of living lives of individuality. In fact, individual fulfillment has become a shrine at which most worship today.
This concept began with the rugged individualism held up for Americans as a standard of excellence, with Horatio Alger idolized in past generations, and continuing through the decades with many other champions.
Lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps is a physical impossibility, but has nevertheless been touted as a real option for us, the rugged individuals who don’t need anyone else. Just try it. Reach down and try to lift yourself off the floor by grabbing your own shoes. How far do you get?
How happy is our individualistic, bootstrap, self-fulfillment, make-it-on-your-own society today? Just go to the nearest statistic book to see. This is the most self-destructive, other-destructive society ever produced by the world. We are a nation of consumers, who end up consuming our own lives and our own relationships in record numbers.
The churches, who claim to follow Jesus, are little better. We have emulated the world, creating “Christianity for individuals.” We have taught ourselves that being alone is good, and that this Christ thing is for us as individuals, that we must concentrate on our individual salvation, and that it is our “personal relationship with God” that counts. Everything is personal, and everything is individual.
Our “devotions” are individual, our prayer time is individual, and our church times are gatherings where everyone concentrates on looking up at God or the pastor, and ignoring each other.
We don’t even relate to one another as a “together” family. We don’t seek out time with one another. We see each other occasionally like ships passing in the night, and we now think of “fellowship” as a pat on the back, a smile, a hello, a short catch-up on a few life details, and/or a brief phone, email or phone text conversation.
We are with a group, and not there at all. We are either texting someone who is not with us, or talking on the phone with someone who is not with us, or emailing someone who is not with us. We are together, but thinking about the next contact we will make. We are the most disconnected society ever, yet pretend it’s all about connection!
My wife and I remember one day being struck by all this. We were at a large, enclosed mall, and were walking together and talking. Ahead of us there were three teenagers. They were walking side by side, and each had a cell phone up to her ear, talking with someone other than the one she was walking side by side with. Even when we’re together we’re not together!
Scripture demands something far different from the true people of God. If we are to follow Jesus, we are commanded to make love for others our priority. We are commanded to look out for other’s interests, as well as our own. We are told to BE TOGETHER.
And when we’re together, and that is to be as often as possible, we are to actually BE TOGETHER. That means giving each other our full attention, and our full love and interest. That doesn’t mean to be grudgingly there, and under compulsion. That doesn’t mean to be caring more about our next day at work than we do about our brother beside us. That doesn’t mean to be focusing on all the work we have to do at home, and ignoring our hurting brethren.
One of the primary focuses of God’s Word is TOGETHERNESS. This foreign concept is only foreign because this world is a foreign land and God’s Nation is to live by rules of a different citizenship. The world is what should seem foreign to you. If you seem at home in this world, you must examine quickly your own faith and discipleship to Christ.
The Body of Christ is to be a beacon of light in this dark, individually-messed up world. The lonely are meant to be in family, and that family is God’s family. And if the family of God is no family at all, but a bunch of disconnected individuals, then we are not being obedient to our Father, from whom our family derives its Name.
Paul taught each of the ekklesia, the “called out to be together” groups of believers He worked with, to give their very lives for one another. He and the other apostles and teachers of that day fought to keep the disciples of Jesus TOGETHER, and fought for them to be “one in heart and mind” as in Acts 4:32.
We must learn true togetherness, and we learn it by doing it. We must purposely pursue being together, and letting down our individual walls, becoming as the early disciples, who gathered and prayed together, and received the Holy Spirit in power together. We must purposely pursue being together as the early disciples, who spent their time together, sharing everything, including their very lives with one another. They suffered together, bled together, and even died together when needed. They wept together in sorrow, and rejoiced together in joyful times. They shared their homes, their possessions, and, most of all, their love together.
Lose all the slogans and posters of this world. Burn your books that talk about individual achievement, and making it on your own. Ease up on your bootstraps, because God never designed you to live in frantic individualism.
Instead, let’s pursue a life of love together, power in the Spirit together, faith worked out together, and a family life together in the ekklesia of God.
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