Caught not taught: Love your neighbor

Life together? What is it, and how do we accomplish it? I am asked that question fairly often. One easy answer is to point people toward Bonhoeffer’s book of the same name, but I am more than happy to simplify it with three words. Worship, meals and messiness.

1. Worship
Everything starts and ends with worship. It is why we were created. It is what we are called and commanded to do, and it must be at the very center of the lives of Christians. We worship in two ways, individually and corporately. Individual worship is fairly easy to do, yet it requires discipline and consistency to come together with a group of like-minded believers. During our time of corporate worship, we are fed and filled, so our individual worship is possible. This is just one reason that our corporate gathering is so important and critical to our spiritual maturity and growth.

Our weekly, Sunday gathering is the start of our worship, and that feeds and drives our individual worship throughout the week. Hopefully, we are gathering in some form or fashion during the week, to be in life together. This leads into the second component.

2. Meals
Perhaps the best way we live life together is through food. There is something about sharing a meal with another person, or persons for that matter, that cannot be replicated any other way. This seems so simple, so clear and as plain, and yet, it may be the one aspect of life together we fail to employ. When we gather to eat, several things happen. First, we begin by giving thanks for what God has given. It is a reminder of our complete and total dependence on Him. Second, we take in the flavors and tastes of something that has a primary purpose of just fueling the body to life, and yet, food is so much more than that. It can be a trigger for nostalgia, memories of our childhood, reminders of friends and family that are no longer with us. There is something about food that just makes us happy. And, along with that happiness, we feel comfort and safety. This allows us to speak in a manner that is informal and often intimate. Our guards are down. We laugh. We enjoy the moment that we are in.

It is not a coincidence that some of the best times of life are found at the table. Think of every joyous celebration we participate in; weddings, baptisms, birthdays, anniversaries….we find them, at some point centered around food. We even find food at the homegoing of fellow saints, there is almost always a meal. Think of the full circled nature of meals, from the earliest moments of life, to the very end, food is a part of life together. This brings us to the final component of life together, it must be messy.

3. Messy
You might be thinking, “why talk about two great things, and then say that a vital part of life together needs to be messy?” Well, I am glad you asked. See, the only way our worship can be genuine and the only way our meals can lead to intimacy is if we are involved in the lives of people around us. The bottom line is that it must get messy. Very messy. I am often baffled by some of the relationships I see within the Church. Everything is pleasant. Everyone is always so kind. Everyone is always smiling. But I often look at the Church in the context of my own family and the dynamics and interactions between my children. They fight. They yell at each other. They are often selfish and rude. As a father, it breaks my heart. I am usually trying to break up a silly or ridiculous argument that seems a lot more important to me than it does to them. One of my daughters tells me that I am usually overreacting. She says, “We fight and we make up. We are all best friends.” See, I don’t see that in the Church as much as I should. Yes, I see conflict, but not conflict that is secure in a relationship. Yes, I see fighting, but not fighting that is assured of reconciliation.

For us to live life together, we need to get messy. If you are part of a church, as every Christian should be, and you have not had a heated discussion or argument, you may need to ask yourself why. If you are part of a church, and never cried together with a brother or sister that is suffering, you may need to ask yourself why. If you have zero conflicts with the people you worship with, you may need to ask yourself why. Life together requires messiness. The messiness is a part of reconciliation that is a beautiful representation of the gospel.

Published February 27, 2017