Summary: We really do need each other.
WE REALLY DO NEED EACH OTHER
OK – pop quiz time. Help me fill in the blanks.
Every Christian needs to have ___ types of relationships in their life. (3)
• You need a _______ – someone further along the journey than you. (mentor)
• You need a _______ – someone to journey with. (fellow-traveler)
• You need a _______ – someone in whom to impart your experiences and spiritual insight. (mentee)
Sometimes we need to be reminded that “church” is plural. Even in the New Testament epistles “you” is often plural.
Last week we began looking at the final two chapters of this wonderful book. We discovered, yet again, that John’s primary goal was not to offer a blue print of the final days of this world but, rather, encouragement for living in the trying days of “today.” This book is for every generation’s day and time; just like the remainder of the Bible is.
This is made rather clear with his use of present active participles in chapter 21. “Coming Down” (21:2) is a great illustration of this. By using this tense for the words John implies that arrival of the New Jerusalem-at least in some preliminary way-is a present reality.
Is there a day of consummation coming? Yes. I truly believe that, BUT WE ARE NOT EXPECTED TO WAIT FOR THE SWEET BY-AND-BY. WE ARE INTENDED TO; AS MUCH AS IT IS POSSIBLE WITH US, MAKE THIS A SWEET HERE-AND-NOW.
John understands God’s consummation to be a purifying of the present earth. It will be restored to its original design as seen in Genesis 1-2. Sin and corruption will be put away forever through the victory of Christ and God will make “all things new!!!!” – not all new things (21:5).
John uses relational language. He uses marriage and urban (city) life to describe what living in God’s presence is like. Again, it is not that God’s presence is something we long for and wait for it is something we experience in the “present active” sense. God dwells with man NOW through His Spirit and in His church.
Among other things, John wants us to understand what it means to be and become the People of God.
According to John’s imagery of “city,” WE REALLY DO NEED EACH OTHER!
• Cities require dependency and interdependency – Babylon corrupts this while the New Jerusalem perfects it
• Cities create a specific and unique communal identity – Babylon corrupts this while the New Jerusalem perfects it
• Cities create specific obligations for its citizenship – Babylon corrupts this while the New Jerusalem perfects it
• Cities create privileges and conveniences – – Babylon corrupts this while the New Jerusalem perfects it
Can I tell you a story?
Dr. Reuben Welch was the chaplain at Point Loma Nazarene University. He was also a New Testament professor there. Occasionally he would teach a summer school course titled “Group and Interpersonal Relations.” As a close to the course there was a tradition of taking a hike together; three miles up the side of a mountain to a beautiful lookout called “Hennigar Flats.” At the top the class has lunch and then make their way back down. It is their final activity as a group.
The trip began as usual. They packed their water, their food and snacks and began the journey. It always happens; soon thereafter the group begins to quickly divide into those who are more adept, strong and conditioned and those who are not. This year there was a particularly distinct divide. The leader of the pack was Don; a former paratrooper. Bringing up the rear was Jane. As Don would round the switchbacks he could not help but notice that Jane was consistently further and further down the trail. Eventually Don sensed the Spirit telling him to leave the front of the pack, return to Jane and walk with her.
As they made their way up the mountain Jane walked slower and slower. “I don’t think I can make it.” She would say. The class ahead would yell back down telling her how beautiful it was and encouraging her to keep coming. Don walked alongside.
Jane never made it. The team had lunch and began back down where they met her and Don.
At the end of the day everyone said their goodbyes. The class was over. But Don could not let it go. The class ended in failure. They had not, as a group learned and implemented the principles of body life and interpersonal relationships. The class was a failure.
Don called all the classmates and to a person they agreed that the class’s final achievement was anything but a stellar example of relational support.
They set a date. They packed their lunch, their water, prepared themselves, met early and began, again up towards Hennigar Flats. Soon, again, the strong and the weak became clear. But this time – they stayed together. They stopped more. They talked more. They ate their lunch before they got to the top. But all of them made it to the top! Even Jane! The event took almost twice as long as normal but the group did more than simply yell back “encouraging” words they actually helped each other make the journey.