Good and Pleasant Unity
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
Psalm 133:1 ESV
David wrote Psalm 133, a song sung by the Israelites when they were on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. David knew the agony of division and conflict in relationships. From his father-in-law, Saul, who tried to murder him, to his son, Absalom, who also wanted to kill him, David experienced broken relationships and at times isolation. Throughout the Psalms he expressed longing to return to the City of God. Several times a year the Israelites went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, that very City of God. They often sang the songs of Psalm 120 – Psalm 134, the Psalms of Ascents, as they traveled. Each Psalm describes the difficulty of pilgrimage through life, along with declarations of the faithfulness of God to keep all of His promises. In Psalm 133, David paints a glorious picture of perfect unity, where God’s people live together in community. Such perfect unity won’t happen until we reach our final destination, Home. In the meantime, God calls us to community where we find help and hope in our own life journeys through like-minded people, who are also on pilgrimage to Home.
We share life in Christ in Christian community. Large worship services and churches serve a spiritual purpose, but it is in small groups that we learn how to live out what we hear and observe in those larger groups. Small groups create a climate where we are safe to share our struggles to walk by faith in our jobs, homes, parenting and relationships. We observe others on the same pilgrimage and their lives help shape our own response to our interactions with others. It is in community that we get a taste of the love of Jesus for us as individuals. Yes, members of our community might also hurt us, but those hurts are a reminder that just like us, they struggle to reflect Jesus. As fellow strugglers, we learn how to forgive one another, serve one another, exhort one another, and teach one another, just as God commands.
Community, whether experienced in a large worship service or small group, creates a platform where we see the presence of Jesus in others. Attending church after the deaths of our son and his friend was excruciating and exhilarating at the same time. Agony washed over me when I sat in a pew without our youngest child, Mark. At the same time hope grew when I saw other broken people lift their hands in worship as tears ran down their cheeks. Christian community showed me the presence of Jesus in other hurting people and encouraged me to pursue the experience of His presence in my agonizing journey. Friendships made in smaller group Bible studies and life groups became lifelines of help and hope as I saw Jesus in fellow life travelers. Friendships made stronger by years of slowly growing in faith, were safe places for me to pour out grief, fear, anger, and my longing to experience God’s love.
Growing up as a child of God takes time. We need cheer leaders who encourage us to keep on keeping on. Others need us to cheer them on. The hunger for perfect unity where no division or conflict lives won’t happen here. Yet, if we stay the course with our small group committed to growing in Jesus, we will get glimpses of what perfect unity in Jesus will be when we all arrive Home.
In this dog eat dog world, we need one another to create a community that greets us with compassion, that accepts us for who we are and offers us a safe place to learn, that offers us a place where we can see God’s love and forgiveness, and where we are strengthened and encouraged to face another week. Don’t cheat yourself by avoiding covenant community. Intentionally seek out a small group of Christians and commit to doing life with them.
Oh, Lord, thank you for the gift of community.