Summary: Today, let us celebrate the unity that we share in Christ. Let us abandon pretend unity in favor of living out life together in Christ in genuine Christian community.
Life Together, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
In this life, I’ve found that people are a lot like bouncy balls. We spend all of our years bouncing through this life. We are born and bounce our way into our parent’s arms.
Then as toddlers we bounce around playrooms and playgrounds, we bounce into our parents arms when we get an “owie.” Then we bounce onto the school bus for the first day of school.
Before you know it, we bounce into the real world. We go off to college, the military, or a job. As we bounce along the streets of life, eventually we bounce our way right into some of the mud puddles of this life.
We bounce our way in and out of trouble and joy and many of us bounce our way through the doors of a church.
And then we bounce our way into God’s grace… coming to rest at the foot of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
When we come into the church we carry the burden of loneliness, the pain of disappointment, the wounds that others have inflicted on us, and weight of our own mistakes.
If we could see each other as we see ourselves, the church would look like the M.A.S.H. hospital unit, the 4077 from the old TV. show. We all wear the invisible scars of this life. The church is a holy hospital, not a social club for saints.
But just as none of us are without injury, none of us have to bounce through the battles of this life alone. The Christian life is life together; by faith, together with Christ, and in Christ we stand together, with one another.
This morning I want to consider what it means to bounce through this life. And more than that, let us examine what it means to bounce through this life together.
This life was never intended to be lived out flying solo, any more than it was intended to be lived out flying on auto pilot. The Christian life has always been, and is now, life together.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (ESV)
The story is told of a man who had bought his first television set back when they used an antenna, the big kind that had to be installed on the roof. The story goes that the man’s neighbors gathered one Saturday to help him and his wife put up the antenna.
Since they had only the simplest tools, they weren’t making much progress… until a man who was new on the block appeared with an elaborate tool box, with everything we needed to get the antenna up in record time.
As they stood around congratulating themselves on this piece of good luck, they asked their new neighbor what he made with such fancy tools. Looking at all of his new neighbors, he smiled and answered, “Friends, mostly.”
That’s what the life together is really all about isn’t it? It’s about bearing one another’s burdens and using our gifts together, for the betterment of one another.
Edward Young, the 18th century English poet once wrote, “A faithful friend is an image of God. A faithful friend is one of life’s greatest assets. A foe to God was ne’er true friend to man.”
The Christian life is a life together. But the greatest enemy to genuine Christian community is inauthentic, imaginary, or counterfeit Christian community.
Life together – genuine Christian community – is not merely an ideal, it can be a divine reality.
In his classic work, “Life Together” (page 26,27) Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it.
But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so whelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves. By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world.”
Let us not be guilty of merely masquerading as Christians in community. Let us learn to live lives that are full of grace for one another.