May 1, 2003
There is a story about a pastor who went to see a man who didn’t attend church very faithfully. As they talked they sat before a fire watching the warm glow of the coals. It was a cold winter day. But, the coals were red hot and the fire was warm. The pastor pleaded with the man to be more faithful in meeting with the people of God. But, the man didn’t seem to be getting the message.
So the pastor took the tongs beside the fireplace, pulled open the screen, reached in and began to separate all the coals. When none of the coals were touching the others he stood and watched in silence. In a matter of moments the coals were all cold. The message was clear.
We need each other. One of the great desires that we all share is a craving for community - intimacy and mutual support. Yet, too often we fall prey to that which divides us and keeps us from community. But, this division is not what Jesus intended for His church, the Body of Christ.
Jesus, on the night before He was crucified, was sharing the “last supper” with His disciples. Before they went out, Jesus prayed and asked God that the disciples would be one as Jesus and the Father are one. (John 17:21)
Jesus never asks us what our ethnic background is. He never divides us based on wealth, education, social status, intelligence, personal preference, or ability. His focus is not on those things which we use to divide us. He only asks if we want to receive His love.
Imagine if we were to experience the same intimacy as a church community, that the Triune Godhead experiences (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)! How this depth of community would transform our relationships in the church. How our marriages and families would be transformed. How this example of community would impact the society in which we live.
A dream? Impossible? Is Jesus fantasizing while He is praying? Maybe this was just wishful thinking on His part? Truthfully, if we tried to be a community by our own power it really would be a foolish dream. Mankind, in centuries of trying to establish community, has only experienced division.
But, the ability to be one comes not from ourselves but from God.
As we come to God, through Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills us (John 14:16,17), empowers us (Ephesians 3:16; 5:18), enables us to uplift and serve with each other (1 Corinthians 12), and helps us to draw closer to being like Jesus (2 Thessalonians 2:13,14). We are drawn closer together as a community. Wholeness, healing, and community come by surrendering ourselves to the working of God in our lives.
In a sense, as we surrender ourselves to God, the warmth and glow within comes from Him. And, it is He who helps us to sustain and warm each other.God has given us each other. Let us not give up the privilege of community and gathering together. Let us focus on Him who loves us by seeking to encourage each other in mutual surrender to God.