When I was in Sr. High, I spent a weekend rock-climbing and whitewater rafting with a Christian group called “Reachout Expeditions.” That weekend in the mountains was a great way to lay aside the distractions of youth. The setting also provided a wonderful source of illustrative material that our guides used to teach us about the Christian life.
I remember one particular lesson taught to me by my rock climbing instructor. He was explaining the importance of keeping three points of contact as I climbed the rock face. This, he explained, would keep me balanced and guard against fatigue. But what he said next is why I still remember the conversation to this day. “Our approach to climbing this rock is a lot like the Christian life. In the Christian life you also need three points of contact. You need to study the Bible and spend time in prayer. However, if that is all you do, you will find it tough going. You also need to spend time with other believers. You need all three points of contact in your Christian life. Without all three, you’ll struggle.”
His lesson really resonated with me, especially since I had been trying to live my Christian life with only sparse church attendance and very little fellowship with true believers. That truth illustrated for me on the side of that mountain has been proven in my life time and time again. The more time I spend in the Word and in the Christian life, the more I discover what a blessing that “third point of contact” is!
Scripture is very clear that we need each other. Hebrews 10:23-25 exhorts us: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
In Galatians 6:2 Paul writes, “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”
Why do we have this responsibility? Why is our care for one another and our interdependence so important? Well, to put it simply, because God has joined us spiritually and eternally to one another. In Romans 12, Paul gives us this powerful analogy: “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (vv. 4-5). Paul goes into great lengths to explain this beautiful and rich concept in a number of places (Romans 12; 1 Cor. 3 & 12; Ephesians 1, 2, 4 for starters) and it is something that we should not ignore.
But what does this truth look like ? Although it clearly includes “going to church” (and those who would argue that it doesn’t need to go back and re-read their NT!) it is much bigger than simply attending one worship service together. There are a myriad of ways that we “bear one another’s burdens,” a myriad of ways our being “members of one another” is displayed. Lately, God has bringing into my life several examples of how this works.
The first, and currently most prominent in our life, has resulted from the difficulties of Amy’s pregnancy. Because this pregnancy has been so much harder than her previous one with Rylie, the last few months my wife has had to function at about half strength. However, our brothers and sisters in our church have reached out to us every step of the way. On several occasions, ladies from the church have come over to help clean our house. Families in the church have taken Rylie for a day here and there to give Amy a chance to rest. On a weekly basis we are blessed with wonderful meals that are purchased and prepared for us. And probably the greatest encouragement and blessing is to know that my wife and unborn daughter are continually brought before the Throne of Grace by those who love our Lord Jesus! Time and time again over the last few months, we have been supported and strengthend by Christ’s servants helping us with a number of physical and material needs and we praise God that He has made us part of a body that sees our needs as their own.
However, this truth that we are members of one another extends even beyond caring for one another physically and materially. Scripture calls us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15); we are exhorted to enter into one another’s joy or suffering emotionally. This is not easy, nor does it happen over night. However, as we build relationships with one another and join together in following Christ, we will find ourselves in seasons when we will “weep with those who weep.”
Over the last year, one of my close friends has been walking through some deep waters and as I’ve come along side of him, I’ve felt the weight of his burden. His desires and hopes and disappointments have become mine and my heart has been broken with his. On several occasions, we who are close to him have grieved with him, our hearts heavy with the burden he is bearing, a burden too heavy for him to bear alone and (praise God) he doesn’t have to. Again, this relationship didn’t happen over night, but as we pursued a relationship of Biblical Christianity with one another, God allowed this trial into our brother’s life and then called us to bear his burden with him. This is the costly side of making a real commitment to the Body. However, as Christ gives you His love for His church, the sacrifice becomes a source of joy as you enter into fellowship with Christ by being able to care for one of His own.
And, please understand that this commitment to one another brings a vareity of joys. I think one of the most exciting ways we get to enjoy this relationship is by being able to stand together in the work of proclamaing of the Gospel. Over the last few years, our small group Bible study has been praying for the salvation of one of our group’s neighbors; each week, we would pray that God would grant salvation to “Ted.” The family that faithfully shared this request with us just as faithfully reached out and ministered weekly to Ted. Ted was, and still is, dying from emphysema. On a regular basis this family from our small group would clean Ted’s home, bring him dinner, visit with him and on a number of occasions share with him the truth of the Gospel.
A few weeks ago, we all rejoiced together (and prayed fervently) after Ted called right before our Bible study. Ted had asked that I come visit him and “answer his questions” about salvation. God graced me with the opportunity to step alongside my brother and sister who had so faithfully ministered in the name of Jesus and explain again to Ted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A few days later, and after more conversations about the Gospel, Ted put his trust in Jesus Christ! When our small group was told, there were tears of joy that expressed thankful hearts. We had all been allowed to be part of the ministry of the Gospel in Ted’s life. What a blessing to rejoice with one another as Ted came to our Bible study last week!
Isn’t it a beautiful thing to be part of the Body? Realize these are just a few of the ways lately the Lord has been reminding me of how much we need each other and the wisdom in His design for His chruch. I praise God that He made us members of one another and didn’t just leave us to struggle on our own. Which brings me to the title of this post.
You can try and be a spiritual “Lone Ranger,” but why would you want to? Why would you choose to miss out on so many wonderful blessings? Why would you want to (and be so arrogant to think you can) bear your burdens all alone? Why would you want to struggle along with only two points of contact?
But I guess the biggest question is, “Lone Ranger, why would you choose to say to your Lord, ‘I will not care for those for whom You care. You died for them, but I can live without them!’?”
Maybe this isn’t the way we think about our involvment in and commitment to the local church, but maybe it is how we should?
Personally, Lone Ranger, I’m not impressed with your Christianity. Actually, I think it is pretty silly.