A Truth For Every Generation
February 7, 2013
BY: Nathan White
(We are partnering with Nathan on the He Has Made Us One cd project to fund missional church planting among the global poor.)
As I get older and experience more of our common faith in Christ, I am increasingly convinced of the central, essential importance of the church in the believer’s life. This is not a new discovery, though it may be “new” to many of us in respect to our experience and belief as revealed by our daily actions and ways of life. I mean to say that I have lived much of my life the way millions of other Americans (and Westerners) have lived theirs: individualistically. This individualism has crept its way slowly and steadily into our worldviews, it has transformed them, and therefore affects all aspects of our lives, including how we think about and act within the context of the local church.
But the gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to two central commandments, which sum up the Law and the Prophets (meaning the entirety of the Scriptures), and thereby reveal in and through us the very will of God for humankind: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself (Deut. 6: 4-5; Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28). Here is the gospel of Christ in simplicity. And we cannot fulfill these commandments without our neighbor. Neither can be kept without the keeping of the other. God has so designed it this way, even from the beginning (Gen. 2:18).
In Luke’s gospel account Jesus tells a man who has asked him how to inherit eternal life, “Do this, and you will live.” Keep the two commandments upon which all the Scriptures hang, and you find Life (Deut. 30:19-20). The man’s immediate response is to justify himself, and so he asks (and we, with him): “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ response is the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
I was sitting in Wednesday night service one night this past summer, and as I looked around at the people who were present, these lines came to me: Beloved, keep clear in mind: Those around you bear the Spirit of the Christ. I still have in my Bible the paper on which I scribbled these words. I was struck with the truth that because I was among my brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ himself was present in a unique and powerful way (Matt. 18:20, a passage on unity). You see, we forget quite often that there is a Reality of which you and I are a part, but which we hardly sense as we go from day to day. Just as Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened to the Reality that he could not see (2 Kgs. 6:8-23), so our eyes must be opened to this Reality (Eph. 1:18). It is in your brother and in your sister where you will meet Christ in a way that you will not meet him in your personal devotions (though both are necessary). This is hard for us to grasp having grown up in an environment that teaches us to be independent, to rely on ourselves and on our technological devices, that we don’t need to wait for rain or seasons for food and harvest, teaches us to spend great amounts of energy, time and money for personal entertainment, etc. But it is nonetheless true. It is in our love for God and neighbor where we will find Life (“…do this and you will live”).
The song, He Has Made Us One, is a reflection and a probing of the Christian belief in unity, especially as taught in Ephesians. It is a reflection on our union with Christ, and therefore our union with one another. There is a hard, solid Truth, a mysterious but realer Reality to this than we often realize, and we need spiritual eyes to see it. Christ is not metaphorically present in your brother, nor is he figuratively present in your sister. He is really present there. He is present in their need, in their love for you, in your love for them, he is present in their cross and in their joy. He is at work in his Church, reconciling us to each other and to himself as One New Man (a new Adam in the final Adam, Jesus Christ), and then through that New Man in Christ who is our Head, he is reconciling the world to himself. And as he is present in us through the Spirit, by the all-conquering power of love he is trampling down the strongholds of this age, the powers at work in this present darkness, confounding the rulers and authorities in heavenly places with his manifold wisdom revealed in the unity of his Church (Eph. 3:10). This is a truth for every generation, and I hope and pray ours grasps it well. O’ Hallelujah! He has made us One!
1 COMMENT | POST A COMMENT
This is so true. God has made each of us unique, and he knows us personally and individually, but he made us to be united. We can enjoy God's direct love and his work, and we can learn so much from his word. But, alone we die. We were not made to be solitary. It is so easy to take those we are close to for granted, until we are really alone. Then we understand the pain of isolation. When a brother or sister reaches out to us, because they choose to care about us, something incredible happens. We suddenly have value. Thanksgiving starts to fill us and pour out over the top of our heart. Darkness gets lighter. The impossible gains hope. We know God's personal love in a different personal way. We see that he reaches farther than just individual miracles. We see that he is alive in people.
This goes the other way too. It usually takes need to understand the strength of being helped. But, once understood, joy comes in the giving too. And, when this joy is understood, acts of charity and of love are no longer just things you do. They are understood for the doors they open in people's lives. They are understood as the miracles they really are. We don't just think God is working through us, we know he is. We get to be part of him, part of his incredible work. We get to be living pieces of his love. We see the joy in being a hand or a foot, an eye, an ear, a mouth. We see the joy in being a pocket book, a cook, a friend, a sister, a brother. And two people who may have started as strangers are forever bound by the love in Christ that has been shared.